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T H E A L A B A M A R E V I E W 226 Public Indians, Private Cherokees: Tourism and Tradition on Tribal Ground. By Christina Taylor Beard-Moose. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2009. viii, 185 pp. $50.75 (cloth). ISBN 978-0-8173-1634-1. $29.95 (paper ). ISBN 978-0-8173-5513-5. In anthropologist Christina Taylor Beard-Moose’s recent study on Cherokees and tourism, she engagingly presents two ethnographic journeys . The first covers her initial time spent on the Qualla Boundary of North Carolina among the Eastern Band of Cherokee. The second takes place in 2006 when she returned to the Cherokee for an update. In six well-constructed chapters Beard-Moose leads her readers through the perplexities of an often contradictory relationship between the Cherokee private sphere and the public image that the vital tourism economy demands. Well versed in the Cherokees’ socioeconomic structure, she immersed herself as a participant-observer in 1997–1998. Volunteering at the Tsali Manor Senior Center in Cherokee, North Carolina, Beard-Moose began her quest by seeking out the elders, the traditional bastion of Cherokee knowledge. Beard-Moose provides a brief history of tourism—80 percent of the Cherokee economy—beginning with the coming of the Great Smoky National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway and the regional boosters who supported their establishment at the doorway to the “Reservation.” Curiously missing is any acknowledgment that western North Carolina had long been a resort area for antebellum plantation owners seeking the healthy mountain atmosphere. The Bureau of Indian Affairs quickly exploited the uniqueness of Cherokee culture, hoping to stimulate the area’s economy. In addition , the Western North Carolina Communities Association founded the Cherokee Historical Association to develop an outdoor drama and an Indian village to capture the dollars of the new auto-tourists. BeardMoose argues that mass tourism, a form of institutional racism, thus exoticized the Cherokees. Yet she appositely notes that tourism is a force that keeps the Cherokee culture alive, which is “contradictory to the extreme ” (p. 53). Hence, the Cherokees as “others” is both a blessing and a curse. The public Cherokee must accept and deal with many irritating tourists within the public venues. One example Beard-Moose provides is the “Pocahontas Incident,” where a phenotypical Indian female guide at the village had to pose as the Disney character in order to indulge an upset tourist child (p. 68). J U L Y 2 0 1 0 227 Beard-Moose goes on to describe other venues that employ Cherokees and their performative gender-specific jobs. Women, as purveyors of tradition, demonstrate crafts, serve as tour guides, or hold service jobs. Men, much more visible, perform as street chiefs or dancers. Another profession in the tourist limelight is the dominantly male “western” street chiefs who pose for photographs. These men provide a public service (directions, information, and service-with-a-smile) and take pride in their profession, though critics consider them exploitative. One can also find mass-produced toys throughout town made in a local factory that employs Cherokees. While this commodification is acceptable, Cherokees resent the imports that commonly flood souvenir shops. The last part of Beard-Moose’s study focuses on how Cherokees have changed tourism to serve their own interests. While the fall Indian Fair began as a tourist draw in 1914, she observes that it has become a homecoming celebration and a showcase of tradition. Though like county fairs with the usual components—the midway, exhibit hall, contests, and pageants—it is uniquely Cherokee with its stickball, blowguns, and traditional foods, crafts, and dances. Today events like the fair and the Ramp Festival cater to the private Cherokee (though tourists still can purchase admission and feast on the wild onion-like delicacies). Beard-Moose next covers the controversial establishment of Harrah’s Casino. Some Cherokees reject the council’s decision because there was no referendum vote. Although she mentions some downsides—fewer family vacationers and less interest in the cultural venues—Beard-Moose contends that casino revenues have created a new middle class. She does not, however, address the social problems that gaming brings to any community. In...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2166-9961
Print ISSN
0002-4341
Pages
pp. 226-228
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-11
Open Access
No
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