Native Americans once roamed Charlotte and North Carolina without any obstacles. North Carolina’s Lumbees are a legend even today, but hundreds of years later, finding information about them can be difficult if you don’t know where to start. There are some fabulous starting points to learn more about Native American culture and history just a click or a car ride away. If your timing is right, you might even catch an actual pow wow. Here are some of the museum exhibits, shops and cultural organizations that are part of Charlotte’s Native American landscape.
Elmstone Drive, Thornhill Division
Hidden away in the Ballantyne section of Charlotte is a 22-acre park parcel, Big Rock Nature Preserve. Walk down a path into the woods and you will come across large natural granite formation, the Big Rocks. The archeological evidence of bones and shells uncovered at the Big Rocks demonstrates it was inhabited by Native Americans more than 7,000 years ago. Along the back side of the eastern wall of the formation is a small crevice/indentation. Bodies within the crevice would have been protected from the cold winds of the treeless grasslands. Sitting around the rocks, the Native Americans built campfires and lived within their protection. Today, those Big Rocks are a reminder of a time long ago. Finding the Big Rocks can be challenging. From Interstate 485, take exit 59 at Rea Road South 1,000 feet to a right on Ballantyne Commons Parkway. Take the first right on Elm Lane.Turn left on Elmstone Drive into the Thornhill subdivision. The preserve is on your right. There is no parking, restrooms or amenities. Park along the road within the preserve boundaries.
14800 Lancaster Highway
Pineville, NC 28134
Garrett’s is a little shop with a fabulous selection of Native American gifts and crafts. Kachina dolls, books and moccasins are among the items available for purchase. Garrett’s also boasts a great selection of antiques to peruse and purchase. The items are eclectic and one of a kind. Don’t walk out if you are tempted, make the purchase as it may not be there tomorrow. The store’s hours vary, so be sure to call the shop before you take a ride out there.
University of North Carolina, Pembroke
Old Main, First Floor
Pembroke, NC 28372
It’s just a two-hour drive to check out the Native American Resource Center in Pembroke, N.C. The mission of the NARC is to educate North Carolinians and Americans about the culture, art, history and contemporary issues affecting Native Americans. The Resource Center specializes in the Robeson County Native American community. It devotes a great amount of work and effort to preserve and inspire Native American craftspeople. The museum exhibits authentic Native American artifacts, arts and crafts from native people all over North America including North Carolina’s Lumbee people.
245 E. Main St.
Albemarle, NC 28001
( 704) 986-3777
The county of Albemarle created a museum to preserve both the culture and objects of all the people who have populated this part of the Piedmont. The Stanly County Museum contains examples of Native American pottery and art. Kids may find the fact that these objects are situated alongside restored pioneer homes a great deal of fun. It’s a small museum, but it provides a worthwhile taste of the history of the region. Boutique museums provide deeper glimpses into their subjects, so make it a point to spend some time at the Stanly talking with museum personnel for facts you just can’t find elsewhere.
Related: Best Museums in Charlotte
2730 Randolph Road
Charlotte, NC 28207
Alongside its fabulous artwork collection and couture costumes, The Mint Museum Randolph houses more than 2,500 pieces of artwork from the ancient Americas. These objects are showcased beautifully at The Mint Museum Randolph. The ancient American works span more than 4,300 years of artistic creativity from 40 major societies, primarily from Latin America. The exhibits allow viewers to examine the aesthetics and creativity of now-lost civilizations. Take a trip back in history and learn about the evolution of the Americas through their art and relics.
Lauren J. Walter is a freelance writer covering all things Charlotte. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.