Visiting the Museum of the Cherokee People in Cherokee NC

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On our latest Great Smoky Mountains camping trip, the Cherokee NC attraction I most looked forward to visiting was the Museum of the Cherokee People (formerly known as the Museum of the Cherokee Indian).
I hoped the museum would give me some good background on the Cherokee people. It did not disappoint, and proved to be of our favorite things to do in Cherokee NC!
The Cherokee museum is distinctive, with a beautiful garden and a 20-foot-tall, hand-carved statue of Sequoyah (who created the Cherokee alphabet) out front. 
But it’s what inside the museum that truly blew us away, offering an immersive overview of Cherokee culture and history, from their roots in the Great Lakes region and the tragic Trail of Tears to modern day.
Read on for our in-depth guide to the Museum of the Cherokee People, including info on hours, admission prices, their recent rebranding and renovations to the facility, and future plans. 

Recommendations for the top Cherokee NC Hotels 

  1. Stonebrook Lodge  (opposite Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, clean, comfortable)
  2. Great Smokies Inn  (cozy, relaxing inn w/free breakfast & pool, good value)
  3. Cherokee Grand Hotel  (adjacent to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino w/free weekend shuttle)
  4. Econo Lodge Cherokee  (good value, comfortable, w/free breakfast)
  5. Fairfield Inn & Suites Cherokee  (good location and value for the price w/free breakfast)
  6. Bay Mountain Inn (budget hotel, close to everything w/free breakfast)
  7. Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort (lots of things to do w/casino, restaurants, live shows)
Cherokee Natives history - Trail of Tears Exhibit at Museum of the Cherokee People in Cherokee NC
Trail of Tears Exhibit at Museum of the Cherokee People

Museum of the Cherokee People Info

ADDRESS: 589 Tsali Blvd, Cherokee NC

PHONE NUMBER: 828-497-3481


HOURS:  Open daily from 9AM–5PM. Last ticket sold at 4 PM.

ADMISSION:  Adults $12; Children ages 6-12- $7; Children ages 5 & under get in free.


From downtown Bryson City NC, head southeast on Everett St toward Depot St. After 0.3 miles, turn left onto US-19/Hwy 19 W/Main St. Continue for 9.7 miles, then turn left onto Hospital Rd. Travel for 0.5 miles, and take a slight right towards Drama Rd. In 194 ft, turn right onto Drama Rd. After 0.3 miles, turn right and the museum will be on the left.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Cherokee NC Campgrounds to Visit

Cherokee nation of North Carolina -Statue at Museum of the Cherokee People in Cherokee NC
Cherokee Statue at Museum of the Cherokee People

Cherokee Museum History

Originally opened as the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in 1948, the museum moved to its current location in the heart of Cherokee NC in 1976.

One of the longest-running tribal museums in the USA, it attracts around 85,000 visitors per year to the Qualla Boundary, the territory of the Eastern Band of Cherokee and the ancestral lands of all Cherokee people.

Through its extensive collections, exhibits, and events, the museum aims to share 15,000+ years of history, culture, and stories of the Cherokee people.

In 1998, the museum underwent a huge renovation that included the addition of a 12,000-square-foot exhibit. A new education wing was added in 2010. 

On Indigenous People’s Day (October 9) in 2023, the name was changed to The Museum of the Cherokee People, with a complete rebranding and ongoing renovations that are expected to last several years.

According to Executive Director Shana Bushyhead Condill, the name change was meant to signify that the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes are, in fact, one people. 

READ MORE: The 20 Best Things to Do in Cherokee NC & the Qualla Boundary

Culture of the Cherokee tribe - Sequoyah Exhibit at Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee NC
Cherokee Language Exhibit at the Museum of the Cherokee People

Exhibits, Events & Workshops

We’ve visited this fantastic museum several times in the last few years and gained more from each experience.

It was great to see visitors of all ages learning from the interactive exhibits, such as learning to use the Cherokee alphabet and getting to touch pelts of local species of wildlife.

There is a lot to read and see here, so we recommend giving yourself 3 hours to get the full experience.

The museum often features the Atsila Anotasgi Cultural Specialists, who can answer visitor questions and share cultural practices and demonstrations, including storytelling, finger-weaving, and wood carving.

There’s a permanent collection that takes you through the history of America’s indigenous people, starting with the Paleolithic period, through the Archaic and Woodland periods, and on to the Mississippian period.

Throughout Winter, they offer full-day Gadugi Pottery Workshops open to all enrolled members of federally recognized tribes.

Check out the calendar on their website for other special events, temporary seasonal exhibits, and workshops being offered later in the year. 

READ MORE: The 10 Best Waterfalls Near Cherokee NC to Visit

Culture of the Cherokee Indians -Baskets at Qualla Arts & Crafts Co-Op in Cherokee NC
Cherokee Baskets at the Qualla Arts & Crafts Co-Op

Cherokee Museum Shop & The Qualla Arts Co-Op

This museum has a lovely gift shop that offers all sorts of books, home decor, jewelry, clothing, and other handmade souvenirs from Cherokee artists and craftspeople

 The neighboring Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual was established in 1946 to strengthen tribal values, celebrate Cherokee culture, and provide a living to local Cherokee people.

It all started with 60 artists and crafters, but the organization’s membership continues to grow, with over 350 artisans currently enrolled. It’s one of the country’s most successful tribal cooperatives!

If you want to visit, the Qualla Arts Co-op is across the street from the Cherokee museum, offering an array of Cherokee handicrafts made using techniques that were passed down through the generations.

There’s also an exhibit room featuring special work from highly regarded Cherokee artists. 

READ MORE: Exploring Oconaluftee Indian Village & Visitor Center in Cherokee NC

Cherokee Indian culture - Women doing beadwork at Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee NC
Women doing beadwork at Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee NC

Renovation & Rebranding

The Museum of the Cherokee People is currently undergoing major renovations. Although they’re projected to take at least 3 years, the museum will remain open to visitors. 

This process started with the name change and rebranding in October 2023, with a goal to create new exhibits and space for new collections, as well as give the current exhibits a facelift. 

It’s all part of an effort to create an authentic space representing the 3 Cherokee tribes:  The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians.

Executive Director Shana Bushyhead Condill says the museum update will include 100 years of recent history not currently covered in the exhibits. They also want to honor the story of tribal women more than before. 

Designed by Tyra Maney of Cherokee NC, their new logo includes a water spider, which legend says brought fire to the Cherokee. The X on its back represents fire, while a spiral represents the evolution of the Cherokee people.

The vivid colors used in the new logo signify the blue skies, magenta flowers, the golden jewelweed, the white of the locust flowers, and the evergreens surrounding the museum. 

With a Grand Opening projected for 2027, the museum staff hopes to create a space that is more inclusive, and tells the full story of who the Cherokee people are now.  –by Emma Gallagher; all photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett




Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

Born in Britain, writer/photographer Emma Gallagher lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of NC on a permaculture homestead with her husband, Jonathon. While traveling the world for 13 years, she fell in love with the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge region when she lived at an artist retreat in Burnsville NC before moving to Brevard. Today Emma lives near Stone Mountain State Park and Doughton Park volunteers at the Surry County Fiddlers Convention, and cares for the gardens at the Reeves Downtown School of Music in Elkin. She's also a volunteer for the Elkin Valley Trails Association, which maintains segment 6 of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.