Ruben Teesatuskie (tee-sah-TES-skee) was born and raised on a hill overlooking the center of the town of Cherokee, the son of a preacher from Robbinsville who could read and write the Cherokee language. While living near the Mountainside Theater where the outdoor drama Unto These Hills is presented, Reuben Teesatuskie worked there for thirteen summers, beginning at age twelve. As a teenager he learned silversmithing from Florence Martin and woodcarving from Amanda Crowe. The first bowl he made won first prize at the Cherokee Fall Fair. On graduating from Cherokee High School, he attended the Institute for American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he continued to study silversmithing.
While working on the Cherokee Progress and Challenge Project, Reuben Teesatuskie visited and interviewed many tribal elders, learning about Cherokee culture. As editor of the Cherokee One Feather newspaper, he edited and published these interviews. He served on the Tribal Council, directed the Cherokee Ceremonial Grounds, and operated F.B.I. Traders, his own craft shop in downtown Cherokee.
Reuben Teesatuskie was skilled in woodcarving, silversmithing, and storytelling. He presented programs that included Cherokee language, story, and storytelling and lectured on Cherokee culture in museums and schools from Virginia to California. He also demonstrated wood carving and taught Cherokee traditional dances.
Reuben Teesatuskie passed away on October 19, 2020 at the age of 68.