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Marshall plans to be finished with the whole enterprise in September, when he will hand everything over to the Eastern Band tribe.“This will help them maintain their cultural heritage,” he says.Vestiges remain for those who know what to look for: graveyards, earthen mounds, houses, tree carvings; the imprints of a smudged-out, penciled-over peoples.Connecting all of these archeological sites is this vast network of trails, thousands of miles of footpaths trodden over centuries of travel.It granted permission to relocate Native Americans living in the east to the unsettled land west of the Mississippi.Some left willingly, but the Cherokee Nation – a collection of affiliated communities extending from Kentucky to Alabama – resisted.
“Wilderness to me is the ultimate expression of freedom,” he says.Those who benefit most from Marshall’s efforts are modern Cherokees.His work is funded by the Eastern Band tribe in western North Carolina, to whom all the mapping data will go. Riggs, the WCU archeologist, is helping Marshall make the maps interactive, with historical storylines and photos.“It may be a town or a gas station to the United States or the state of North Carolina,” Belt says, “but at one time underneath it might have existed a very extensive culturally-based community that doesn’t exist now. It is one thing to have a vague notion that some land was once yours; it’s wholly another to see it clearly laid out, and how ownership has changed over time.“When you take some place and you rename it you’ve asserted that, ‘This now belongs to us’,” he says.