The Oconaluftee Valley, located on the North Carolina side of the Smokies, is home of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians and part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). This seemingly isolated valley has an epic tale to tell. Always a desirable place to settle, hunt, gather, farm, and live, the valley and its people have played an integral role in some of the greatest dramas of the colonial era, the Trail of Tears, and the Civil War era. The experiences of turn-of-the-twentieth-century industrial logging alongside the national park movement show how land-use trends changed communities and families. Though the valley saw its share of conflict, its residents often lived like neighbors, sharing resources and acting cooperatively for mutual benefit and survival. They demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of threats to their existence.
Elizabeth Giddens offers a deeply researched and elegantly written account of Oconaluftee and its people from Indigenous settlements to the establishment of the national park by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940. She builds the tale from archives, census records, property records, personal memoirs, and more, showing how national events affected all Oconaluftee's people—Indigenous, Black, and white.