Nikwasi Mound: Franklin’s oldest structure may soon become its newest attraction

By Bill McGoun, contributing editor

Franklin’s oldest structure may soon become its newest tourist attraction.

Driving through town on Business U.S. 441, it’s easy to overlook Nikwasi Mound, especially if traffic is heavy. The mound sits between the northbound and southbound lanes, marked only by two historical markers.

Once it was the center of one of the Cherokees’ most important towns, which encompassed some 100 acres. It first appears on maps in 1544 but could have existed for centuries before that.

It was the site of treaty talks with South Carolina in 1727. Talks presumably were held in a council house atop the mound. At that time, the village had some 150 residents. Further negotiations were held in 1730, as noted on the older and smaller of the two markers.

The larger and newer marker gives an expansive story of Cherokee culture: “You are standing on land that has been part of a town for about three thousand years,” it announces.

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The Nikwasi Initiative, a collaboration of the EBCI and neighboring communities, is a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the sense of place of the Nikwasi Mound and expanding the understanding of the mound and the surrounding region through improved access, interpretation and educational activities.  

Using engaged partnerships, it focuses on developing cultural interpretation resources for the nationally significant Cultural Corridor from Cherokee to Franklin and to the headwaters of the Little Tennessee River, and encouraging sustainable economic growth of the entire corridor area.

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