This Fourth of July, take a moment to appreciate not only the story of America and its independence, but also the rich history of Native America. This month Wild South an Asheville-based conservation non-profit, in partnership with Google Earth Outreach, development firm TopFloorStudio, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has launched Cherokee Journey, an interactive website filled with geographic and cultural material about the Cherokee people of Western North Carolina.
Wild South was awarded a $20,000 grant from Google Earth Outreach to develop a website that brought together research on Cherokee history and culture, from the past four years. Wild South contracted Asheville’s development firm TopFloorStudio to integrate interactive Google Earth Maps and virtual tours into a web based platform and a smart phone application.
Lamar Marshall, Cultural Heritage Director of Wild South, envisionsCherokee Journey as the culmination of many years of intensive research on the Cherokee people. This site will provide an opportunity to rediscover and, perhaps for the first time, explore subjects that are missing from traditional American history books and school curricula.
“There are thousands of scattered archives delineating the history of the Cherokees that simply are not available to the average person,” said Marshall.
“Our vision is that this project will graphically illustrate cultural geography by embedding it into the landscape through colorful, interactive, 3-D interfaces and the power of Google Earth,” Marshall said.
In addition to virtual tours, the site will feature historic maps, geographic lessons, information about Cherokee trails and local Cherokee attractions such as the Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee, NC. Lessons walk readers through the landscape and ecology of 18th century Cherokee territory, Cherokee trade patterns, and much more. For those who want to continue the journey beyond the web, there will also be a list of local Cherokee attractions in Western North Carolina.
Marshall has spent the past four years gathering information on trails and historical documents for this project. There were many challenges during Cherokee Journey’s development, with one of the greatest difficulties being to carefully exclude the locations of sensitive archaeological sites.
TopFloorStudio CEO Ty Hallock said in an e-mail, “It was quite daunting because we know how high the Cherokee standards are for representing their history.”
Ben Prater, Associate Executive Director of Wild South, has high hopes for the continuing development of Cherokee Journey. “Wild South is dedicated to preserving the natural legacy of Western North Carolina and beyond. The history and culture of the Cherokee people are a part of this region’s natural landscape, and educating others through this collaborative project will inspire them to respect and appreciate the region’s historical and natural heritage.”
“It was a pleasure to work with Wild South and Google to build a website and application that has the potential to reach millions of people. The technology is very sound and we hope to continue building on these apps in the near future,” wrote Hallock.
To visit the website and download the Android phone application click here.