WHAT WE DO
About The Mound
Noquisiyi (later interpreted as Nikwasi) which means star place was a Cherokee town in present-day Franklin, North Carolina. Though its exact age remains unknown, Noquisiyi appears on maps as early as 1544, and British colonial records first mention it by name in 1718.
At the heart of Noquisyi on the banks of the Little Tennessee River, the town's meeting hall once towered over the landscape, built atop the mound which was formed by Cherokee women carrying baskets of soil to that location. Today, Noquisiyi Mound, the settlement's only surviving landmark, rises as the gateway to Franklin.
The Nikwasi Initiative was founded to promote, interpret and link cultural and historic sites (such as the Noquisyi and Cowee mounds) along a Cherokee Cultural Corridor while raising awareness and funds to pursue those efforts and explore opportunities for collaboration between the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and local communities.
Our story began on April 17, 2015, when a group of people from the Franklin and Cherokee communities met for the first time with the common goal of conserving heritage and healing relationships between mountain neighbors. Leaders from these two communities began a collaborative dialogue to explore strategies for regional partnership, cultural preservation, and economic development.
Nikwasi Initiative preserves, protects, and promotes culture and heritage in the original homeland of the Cherokee people.
Using engaged partnerships, Nikwasi Initiative focuses on developing cultural resources for diverse projects from the nationally significant Cultural Corridor along the Little Tennessee River, to restoration of heritage apple species, and widespread cultural collaboration.
This group, known collectively as Mountain Partners, ultimately founded the nonprofit Nikwasi Initiative in 2016 to act on the shared ideas and goals conceived during these collaborative sessions. Formed with support from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, the Cherokee Preservation Foundation and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, the larger Mountain Partners group includes members of the EBCI, Franklin Town Council and Macon County officials, members of Mainspring Conservation Trust, and members of the Cowee School Arts and Heritage Center. Since our founding, many others have joined in support of our mission. Visit our partner's page to see a full list of supporters.
Part of Nikwasi Initiative's mission is to develop a Cultural Corridor along more than 60 miles of the Little Tennessee River, from Cherokee to Franklin and the headwaters of the river, creating cultural interpretation resources on-site to promote improved visibility of significant Cherokee landmarks and historic sites. The first phase of this important project includes cultural kiosks with informational panels at the ancient towns of Cowee, and Noquisiyi overlooking the Mounds that were the gathering place of each.