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Great Smoky Mountains Folklife

Great Smoky Mountains Folklife

Michael Ann Williams
Copyright Date: 1995
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  • Book Info
    Great Smoky Mountains Folklife
    Book Description:

    The Great Smoky Mountains, at the border of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina, are among the highest peaks of the southern Appalachian chain. Although this area shares much with the cultural traditions of all southern Appalachia, the folklife here has been uniquely shaped by historical events, including the Cherokee Removal of the 1830s and the creation of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park a century later.

    This book surveying the rich folklife of this special place in the American South offers a view of the culture as it has been defined and changed by scholars, missionaries, the federal government, tourists, and people of the region themselves.

    Here is an overview of the history of a beautiful landscape, one that examines the character typified by its early settlers, by the displacement of the people, and by the manner in which the folklife was discovered and defined during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Here also is an examination of various folk traditions and a study of how they have changed and evolved.

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-387-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xviii)

    On a summer evening, cars crawl along the loop road through Cades Cove on the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The pace is about the same as that of a rush hour in a major city. A minor traffic jam is caused by a raccoon at one point and by a deer at another; but the major holdup, requiring the assistance of park personnel, occurs because of a bear up a tree. Why are all these people here? Certainly the opportunity to see wildlife close up is one draw, particularly for urban folks. A view of...

  6. PART ONE Historical Overview

    • CHAPTER 1 Settlement and Removal
      (pp. 3-12)

      Today the Smoky Mountains speak of wilderness. It is easy for the casual observer to believe that it has always been so—that this land was miraculously snatched up and preserved before it was besmirched by human occupation. Strictly speaking, however, much of the wilderness is a product of reconstruction rather than of preservation. For some, the Smokies have been home, not wilderness; the mountains have been domesticated, and their natural resources exploited, by humans for a very long time.

      The Great Smoky Mountains region has supported human habitation not only for centuries but for millennia. By the time of...

    • CHAPTER 2 “Discovering” the Folklife of the Great Smokies
      (pp. 13-30)

      The creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the 1930s brought the region to the attention of the nation. Ironically, it was at the same time that the massive disruptions of the park removals were occurring that the park service began to promote the (supposedly) unique folk culture of the region. However, the same process had already been taking place on a more gradual level during the half century that preceded the creation of the park. As tourism and timbering were changing forever a way of life, scholars, popular writers, and missionaries were starting to “discover” and promote...

  7. PART TWO Changing Traditions in the Twentieth Century

    • CHAPTER 3 Music and Dance
      (pp. 33-64)

      The music and dance tradition with the deepest historical roots in the Great Smoky Mountains region is that of the Cherokee Indians. Song and dance were an integral part of the traditional belief system of the Cherokee people. Religious ceremonies incorporated dance, and even social dances had sacred elements. Ritual dance was believed to insure the welfare of both the individual and the community. Nineteenth-century pressures on the Cherokees to acculturate to white ways, however, took their toll on traditional music and dance. Even before the Removal, the establishment of a secular form of self-government separated political and religious leadership....

    • CHAPTER 4 Material Folk Traditions
      (pp. 65-90)

      The most emblematic of the material folk traditions of Southern Appalachia is certainly the log house. It is an amalgam of the European folk building traditions brought to the southern mountains, especially central and northern European building techniques and British and Irish house plans. However, by the time European-American settlers came to the Smokies, the signs of distinct ethnicity in architecture had largely disappeared and been replaced by a uniquely American system of building. In the early years of white settlement, the log house in Appalachia also represented a practical response to an abundance of raw material and to the...

    • CHAPTER 5 Food, Drink, and Medicine
      (pp. 91-108)

      Foods and food traditions are often believed to be important components of regional identity. On the surface, however, there would seem to be little distinctive about Smoky Mountains foodways. Tourist establishments are hard-pressed to promote distinctive foods of the region and, if they try, fall back on traditional southern favorites or trout caught locally in mountain streams (or so the tourist hopes). Gift shops sell assortments of preserves, mountain honey, and sorghum (often not produced locally). Even at Cherokee, food is an almost invisible part of a culture that is packaged as a commodity for non-Indians.

      If, unlike music and...

    • CHAPTER 6 Verbal Lore
      (pp. 109-124)

      Among the most stereotyped aspects of southern mountain culture is speech. As with most stereotypes of Appalachia, it is double-edged. The language of the mountains is portrayed both negatively, as ignorant and uneducated, and romantically, as ancient and poetic. The issue of whether there is such a thing as Appalachian speech is made problematic by the fact that many of its characteristics are similar to those found elsewhere in the Upper South; at the same time, there can be considerable subregional variation within Southern Appalachia, and even within the Smoky Mountains region itself.

      The complexity goes beyond subregional variation, however....

  8. PART THREE Tourism and the National Park

    • CHAPTER 7 Parklore
      (pp. 127-142)

      One of the primary catalysts of change in the Great Smoky Mountains region was the creation of the national park. Today the National Park Service is the major interpreter of the traditional culture of the region. The park, however, not only offers its unique interpretation of Smoky Mountains folklife but also generates its own folklife. Employees of the park service have their own occupational folklore, and the interaction of rangers, tourists, local people, and wildlife have given birth to new forms of folklore.

      In creating national parks in the eastern United States, the park service not only had to contend...

    • CHAPTER 8 Displacement and Sense of Place in the National Park
      (pp. 143-170)

      The human history of the Great Smoky Mountains is a history of displacement. Despite this fact, or perhaps because of it, people from the mountains feel a strong sense of place. Some left and never returned. But a remarkable number of those removed, and their descendants, celebrate their continued sense of connection with this place. However, while the sense of place inspires celebration, it also fuels political conflict when the desires of those with traditional ties to the Smokies conflict with the agenda of the National Park Service.

      On a warm Sunday morning in 1992, some six hundred people gather...

    • CHAPTER 9 Displays of Culture
      (pp. 171-186)

      If we go off too long in search of authentic culture, especially at public events and institutions, we are apt to end up like the befuddled tourist, unable to find a real Appalachian. True, we can trace the history of individual genres of folklife and the ways in which they have changed during the past century, but it would be wrong to think that real culture exists independent of popular perceptions and scholarly representations.

      Recent Appalachian studies scholarship has emphasized the extent to which Southern Appalachian culture has been selectively defined by outsiders who have their own political and individual...

  9. Bibliographic Notes
    (pp. 187-206)
  10. Index
    (pp. 207-216)