Oconaluftee Islands Park is a narrow island in the middle of the Oconaluftee river in Cherokee, North Carolina. At the heart of the Qualla Boundary, the Eastern Cherokee reservation, Ocoaluftee river has always been a gathering place for Cherokee families. Today, it’s no different. The last time I visited Cherokee, I sat in that park watching a mother duck lead her young along the river bank, families gathered for picnics, and children building small dams with river rocks while wading in the shallows. It’s the sort of scene you might imagine has taken place there for centuries.