Want to experience what life was like in a Cherokee village in 1710? Visit Diligwa at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Oklahoma.
The new village opened June 3 and replaced Ancient Village, which opened in 1967 and was designed to showcase Cherokee life before European contact. This new village is a more accurate representation, according to a press release from the Cherokee Nation, because more resources are available for research.
“Our mission is to preserve and promote Cherokee culture, and Diligwa allows us to do that better than ever by more accurately showing what life was like 300 years ago,” said Cheryl Parrish, , interim executive director for the Cherokee Heritage Center, in the release.
Alfie Vick, a University of Georgia professor, was asked to help design the landscape of the village because of his expertise in Cherokee heritage plants, reported the Cherokee Phoenix.
“This is the most historically accurate recreation of an early contact Cherokee town in existence today,” Vick told the Phoenix. He also said orchards of peach, plum and apple trees are yet to plants as well as communal cornfields.
Diligwa is a name derivative of Tellico, a village that was once a principal Cherokee town in the east but is now underwater.
Tellico was the Cherokee Nation’s capital and center of commerce before Echota in what is now Monroe County, Tennessee. Tellico was referred to as the “wild rice place” and became synonymous with a grain that grew in the flat, open spaces of east Tennessee.
When the Cherokees first arrived in Indian Territory, the grasses that grew in the Ozards reminded them of the grassy areas of Tellico, so they called their new home “Di li gwa,” Tah-le-quah or The-li-co, “the open place where the grass grows.”
That flatness is something Vick said lends to the accuracy of the village at Diligwa. He told the Phoenix that Cherokee villages of the 1700s would have been located on a flat area near a river or flood plain.
Now visitors can experience what the life was like for the Cherokee of the early 18th century. The village features 19 wattle and daub structures and 14 interpretive stations, where crafts are demonstrated and Cherokee lifeways are explained.
“We created a world-class venue that gives users a firsthand look into the Cherokee Nation’s culture and traditional lifeways,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “The new village will be an authentic educational experience for Cherokees and non-Cherokees alike. We are proud to use this new setting to promote the tribe’s history and ensure our culture tourism efforts remain second to none.”
Diligwa also features two recreation areas where Cherokee games like stickball are showcased.
The Cherokee Heritage Center is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive in Park Hill, Oklahoma. For more information on events and hours, call 888-999-6007.