Rising above the banks of the Little Tennessee River in Macon County, Cowee Mound was once the center of a thriving Cherokee community that spanned more than a mile on both sides of the river. The town is thought to date back as early as 600 A.D.
Cowee is considered one of the most significant archaeological sites of the Mississippian period in North Carolina, where the presence of agriculture on the bottomlands dates back at least 3,000 years.
Atop the mound, which is still visible today, sat the Cowee council house, a landmark that served as the principal diplomatic and commercial center of mountain Cherokee in the 18th century.
In the early 1800s, the Cherokee community was pushed out of the valley — and remnants of the town went largely unnoticed for centuries.
More than 200 years later, in 2007, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians returned to Cowee, purchasing 70 acres along the Little Tennessee River, including the historic Cowee Mound and town site.
In 2018, the legacy of Cowee returned to public view due to the on-site installation of a cultural kiosk including informational panels on the town of Cowee. This new installation was the result of a partnership between Nikwasi Initiative, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Mainspring Conservation Trust — and it is part of Nikwasi Initiative's work in creating and maintaining a Cherokee Cultural Corridor in Western North Carolina.
When we travel to the Cowee Mound, I want everyone to envision homes stretching along the river. I want you to envision a council house where decisions were made for the Cherokee Nation, and I want you to think about how we have come full circle in terms of our self governance as a people.
— Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed