*Photo Credit: Blue Ridge National Heritage Area
Beneath the Blue Ridge Mountains lies a rich history that stretches back thousands of years. Long before European settlers arrived, the region was home to several Native American tribes, each with its unique culture and traditions. In this blog post, presented by Ashe County Realty, we embark on a historical voyage to explore the Native American heritage of Ashe County, NC.
The First Inhabitants
Before the arrival of European explorers and settlers, the land that would become Ashe County was inhabited by indigenous peoples for centuries. The exact tribes that resided here are not always easy to pinpoint, as indigenous groups often moved throughout the region in search of resources and suitable hunting grounds.
The Cherokee Influence
The Cherokee Nation, one of the most well-known Native American tribes in the southeastern United States, exerted a significant influence over the region that now encompasses Ashe County. The Cherokee people, who referred to themselves as the Ani-Yunwiya (the Real People), inhabited parts of what is now North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina. Ashe County was on the eastern fringe of their territory.
The Cherokee Trail of Tears
Tragically, the history of the Cherokee in Ashe County and the surrounding region is deeply entwined with the devastating events of the Trail of Tears. In the early 1830s, the U.S. government forcibly removed the Cherokee from their ancestral lands, including Ashe County, leading to a heartbreaking journey westward to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). This painful chapter in American history resulted in immense suffering and loss for the Cherokee people.
The Legacy of Native American Culture
While the Cherokee Nation was displaced from Ashe County and much of the Southeast, the legacy of Native American culture persists. The names of towns, rivers, and landmarks in the area often have Cherokee origins, serving as a reminder of the deep-rooted Native American history in the region.
Over the years, archaeological excavations in Ashe County have uncovered artifacts that shed light on the area’s ancient inhabitants. These discoveries include pottery, tools, and other items that offer valuable insights into the daily lives of the Native American peoples who once called this region home.
The Healing Springs of Healing Springs
One remarkable testament to Ashe County’s Native American history is Healing Springs, located near Crumpler. This natural spring was considered sacred by the Cherokee, who believed in its healing properties. Visitors can still experience the springs today, with locals and tourists alike collecting its waters, which are believed to have therapeutic qualities.
Honoring the Past
Today, there are ongoing efforts to preserve and honor the Native American heritage of Ashe County. The Ashe County Museum and the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area showcase exhibits dedicated to the indigenous peoples who lived here, ensuring that their stories are not forgotten.
The Native American history of Ashe County, NC, is a vital part of the region’s rich and complex past. While the Cherokee Nation and other indigenous groups were tragically displaced from this area, their legacy endures in the names of places, the archaeological record, and the stories passed down through generations. Ashe County residents and visitors alike can pay homage to this heritage by learning about and respecting the land’s original inhabitants. In doing so, we honor the vibrant and enduring legacy of the Native American peoples who once thrived in these breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains.