Upgrades are planned for the Cherokee mound that sits in the center of Franklin and has for thousands of years.
A nonprofit initiative believes a group effort can bring improvements and enhance understanding of the Cherokee people.
The objective of the Nikwasi Initiative is to protect sacred places to the Cherokee, like the mound in the center of Franklin.
Many stakeholders are involved; the Town of Franklin itself, Macon County, and Mainspring Conservation Trust.
“We want to make sure that all the Cherokee people are respected and understood and honored,” said Nikwasi Executive Director Elaine Eisenbraun.
Almost two years ago, the deed to the mound transferred from the Town of Franklin to the nonprofit.
Laced into that transfer was a common goal to conserve Cherokee history and heal bonds with mountain neighbors.
“We're focused on bridging the communities of people that are in this area,” Eisenbraun said.
She said history is important.
“In all the trouble that we're having in our country I think culture is something that can bring us together,” Eisenbraun added.
“It's a fantastic opportunity we have,” said Franklin Mayor Bob Scott.
He is proud of Franklin's commitment to the mound, including when the town saved it from development years ago.
“1946 the town rallied then to preserve the mound and, in a way, we’re doing the same thing right now,” Scott said. “I think the problem right now is deciding what we're going to do, not if we're going to do it."
There are some tangible additions already, including an informational kiosk of Cherokee accomplishments and history which shows how traditionally to pronounce "Nikwasi."
“The proper pronunciation is, 'Nokwisiyi.' Nokwisiyi means 'Star Place,'” Eisenbraun said.
Plans could also include something that connects everyone -- food.
“The Cherokee people had amazing skills long ago in terms of growing crops,” she said. “We'll probably plant some crops around the greenspace around the mound."
"We would like someday to have a restaurant onsite that focuses on Cherokee traditional foods," Eisenbraun added.
A learning center is also in the works.
All combined, the plans make for an attractive and historic entrance into Franklin, according to Scott, and a chance to learn about native people that have been there for thousands of years.
“To really embellish and bring about a lot more awareness of the cultural corridor,” Einsenbraun said.
The corridor the Nikwasior Nokwisiyi Initiative wants to protect stretches all the way from North Georgia to the center of Cherokee in N.C.