Cherokee, North Carolina

Cherokee, North Carolina
ᏣᎳᎩ (Cherokee),
ᎡᎳᏬᏗ (Elawodi)
Census-designated place

Main street of Cherokee
Motto: "Trails of Legends and Adventures"
Coordinates: 35°28′37″N 83°19′13″W / 35.47694°N 83.32028°W / 35.47694; -83.32028
Country United States
State North Carolina
Counties Swain, Jackson
  Total 12.0 sq mi (31.2 km2)
  Land 12.0 sq mi (31.2 km2)
  Water 0 sq mi (0 km2)
Elevation 1,991 ft (607 m)
Population (2010)
  Total 2,138
  Density 180/sq mi (69/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
  Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 28719
Area code(s) 828
Mingo Falls near Cherokee drops about 120 feet (37 m) during moderately dry weather.
Walking bridge over the Oconaluftee River in Cherokee
Member of the Warriors of AniKituhwa, a traditional Eastern Cherokee band dance troupe
Museum of the Cherokee Indian on Tsali Boulevard in Cherokee
Cherokee Baptist Church

Cherokee (Cherokee language: ᏣᎳᎩ) /ˈɛrəkˌ/[1][2][3] [4] is a census-designated place (CDP) in Swain and Jackson counties in western North Carolina, United States, within the Qualla Boundary land trust. It is located in the Oconaluftee River Valley around the intersection of U.S. Route 19 and U.S. Route 441. As of the 2010 census, the CDP had a population of 2,138.

Cherokee is the headquarters for the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation.[5] To continue the heritage of the Cherokee in the town, several signs for streets and buildings are written in both Cherokee syllabary and English (see image below).

Cherokee was previously known as "Yellow Hill", which is still used in Cherokee : ᎡᎳᏬᏗ Elawodi.


Harrah's Cherokee Casino opened in 1997 and dramatically "changed everything from jobs to education to health care" for Cherokee tribe members; in 2005, nearly four million people visited the casino and generated a per capita profit of roughly $8,000 annually.[6]

Manufacturing and textile plants which previously existed in the area have since closed or moved overseas. Before the casino, national park tourism provided work for about half of the year, and most tribal members lived off public assistance during the winter.[6]


Cherokee is a tourist-oriented area, located at the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and at the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. In addition to the casino, it is the site of attractions such as:

Eastern Cherokee history, culture, and crafts are portrayed in the historical drama Unto These Hills, presented each year during the tourist season. It is also home to three roadside attractions with zoos: Cherokee Bear Zoo, Chief Saunooke Bear Park, and Santa’s Land. Retired game show host and animal rights activist Bob Barker has called for the black bear zoos at these attractions to be closed,[8] prompted by the experiences he learned of from the family of Rep. Bill Young of Florida.[9]

The Cherokee area was also the home of two, now-defunct amusement parks, Cherokee Wonderland and Frontier Land. The former was only open for a few years in the 1960s, while the latter opened a few years later and was open for many years before being converted into a water park and finally closing to make room for the Harrah's Cherokee Casino. When they were open, both parks featured their own 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge[10] railroads (named Cherokee Wonderland Railroad and Frontier Land Railroad) as part of their attraction line-ups.

Notable people

Notable residents or natives of Cherokee include:


Cherokee Central Schools operates the K-12 public school.

Pop culture

Scenes from movies such as Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, Digging to China, Forces of Nature, The Fugitive, and Stroszek were shot in Cherokee.[11]


  1. "Cherokee". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 2016-01-24.
  2. "Cherokee". Unabridged. Random House. Retrieved 2016-01-24.
  3. "Cherokee". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2016-01-24.
  4. Talk Like A Tarheel, from the North Carolina Collection's website at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
  5. Official website of Cherokee and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians
  6. 1 2 The business of gambling, a July 6, 2005 CNN article
  7. Cherokee Museum
  8. Bob Barker Showcases Cruelty to Bears in Meeting With Cherokees, a July 29, 2009 post on the PETA File blog
  9. Cherokee’s Unbearable Bear Pits, an August 4, 2009 post on the Larry King Live blog
  10. Surviving Steam Locomotive Search
  11. Locations in Cherokee, NC from Internet Movie Database
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cherokee, North Carolina.

Coordinates: 35°28′37″N 83°19′14″W / 35.47694°N 83.32056°W / 35.47694; -83.32056

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