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Returning to Unaka

Returning to Unaka takes Roan Mountain, the Unaka Range’s highest peak, as a point of entry into the interrogation of cultural and ecological erasure. As an integral and highly relevant site for regional histories of Appalachian culture, rural industries, extraction, ecological vitality, and Cherokee spirituality, Roan Mountain becomes a site of contestation and multiplicity. A site where so many narratives have collided, from Black freed people and the Cherokee, to the historically white population and persisting poverty. As such, and by drawing from a vast body of regional research, this project finds itself negotiating the vital act of place-making on the one hand and the stewardship of land and ecology on the other. Narratives, stories, science, and stakeholder interviews alike have - without failure - all uncovered concepts of Migration, Shelter, and Destination. Combing the synthesis of these concepts with today’s Roan Mountain land use, we have the unique opportunity to uncover place, foster stewardship, protect ecologies, and tell stories through calibrated design interventions. Interventions that touch lightly, are experienced boldly, and paradoxically might not wish to be seen.