An opening date has now been set for a new museum that is devoted to South Carolina’s Native American history. The Museum of the Cherokee in South Carolina will be the state’s first museum devoted solely to the history of a particular tribe, its organizers say.
Organizers hope to open in the town of Walhalla on May 10, which would be the same day as the town’s spring festival.
“There is no other museum that focuses on Native American culture,” said curator Luther Lyle, “Some other museums have a display, per se, on Native Americans in South Carolina. But there is no other museum in South Carolina that just focuses on Native American culture.”
The opening comes after nearly four years of fundraising and work by the nonprofit that will operate the small museum, as well as members of the Cherokee Bear Clan and other volunteers. The finished project will be located in a former office building on the town’s Short Street.
Lyle said the structure was abandoned and in rough shape when the nonprofit took possession of it. “The roof caved in and there were actually full-sized trees growing inside the building,” he said, “They were higher than the top of the building itself.” The building also needed asbestos removed before the museum could be established.
The exhibits will feature arrowheads, spear points, clay pots, and other artifacts and crafts.
“We’ll dispel some of the myths about how all the Cherokee Indians wore headdresses or lived in teepees. That’s ridiculous. That’s Plains Indian culture,” Lyle said. He said he was concerned that South Carolina schools teach very little about the native inhabitants who lived in the state before European settlers arrived.
Cherokee settlements were scattered throughout the Foothills region up into the early 19th Century. In 1816, South Carolina purchased the last remaining tribal lands inside its borders. However, some Cherokee were allowed to buy their own land and remained in the state, Lyle said.
Once the museum opens on May 10, it will be open three days per week.