Rivercane is a bamboo native to the United States that has been used for millennia for basketry and other purposes by Native American tribes such as the Choctaw and Cherokee. Recent revitalization of traditional arts and crafts in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian (EBCI) has prompted a major research effort at Western Carolina University through the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines.
PSDS has received 3 grants for rivercane research starting in March, 2005. In the first phase of research, rivercane was located and mapped using GPS devices. Over the course of the grant, a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) database of locations, cane height, diameter, and size was built.
The second grant from September, 2006 through February, 2008 resulted in completion of Katie McDowell’s senior geology thesis and Adam Griffith’s master’s thesis. The topic of both theses concerned the soil characteristics where rivercane grows. Kathy Mathews in the Biology Department focused on genetic aspects of the plant while David Kinner and Ben Tanner in the Geosciences Department researched soil water and the hydric status of rivercane.
The final grant sought to bring lessons of the previous two grants to members of the EBCI in the form of presentations and a patch of rivercane on Cherokee Tribal land. WCU and the EBCI have been working together to bring rivercane to the Cherokee Central Schools campus in Cherokee. Click here to see the plans for the rivercane planting.