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Lehigh Carbon Community College

By Jordan Beach

The Funk Heritage Center will open a new exhibit next month celebrating its 20th anniversary of educating North Georgia on Native American history.

The event will take place Nov. 21 with the opening of a new exhibit in the Buffington Gallery, called “Resistance and Resilience—The Cherokee Trail of Tears,” which includes 20 new interpretive panels and interactive elements.

Along with the new exhibit, the executive director of the National Trail of Tears Association, Troy Wayne Poteete, will speak, starting at 2 p.m. Tony Harris, Cherokee elder and Georgia TOTA chapter president, will lead the ceremonial first planting for a re-dedication of the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. A special grant from the TOTA funded the new trail and features new interpretations for a number of native plants.

The anniversary event will also include the Center’s debut as part of the “Passport to the Trail of Tears” program through the National Park Service.

“The Funk Heritage Center is an official interpretive site on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail,” said Funk Heritage Center director, Jeff Bishop. “Now, for the first time, visitors will be able to obtain an official NPS stamp on their park passports at the Funk Heritage Center front desk.”

Bishop says the center’s core mission has been to educate the community about the area’s rich heritage in pioneer and Native American history.

“We have hundreds of area students pass through this museum each week as we introduce them to the very different world their ancestors lived and worked in. We also see people from all over the state and really all over the world who come here to learn more about the unique stories we tell here. We love serving the community in this way.”

When the museum opened on Nov. 16, 1999, the Cherokee Tribune wrote an article with the headline “Dream Museum Becomes a Reality,” and since then, it has welcomed nearly 200,000 visitors. Moving forward, Bishop said the center would like to continue opening new exhibits and provide new picnic tables for the pavilion, but says the future is as big as they can dream it to be.

“We’re also looking at possibly partnering with the Creek Nation and the Cherokee tribes to re-imagine some of our galleries to more accurately reflect a Native perspective. With the right partners, we can make anything happen.”

Seating at the anniversary event is limited. Reserve your seat today by calling 770.720.5970.