WCU, EASTERN BAND OF CHEROKEE
SIGN AGREEMENT OF COLLABORATION
As members of the Cherokee Tribal Council look on, Michell Hicks, principal chief of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians (left), and Western Carolina University Chancellor John Bardo sign a memorandum of understanding.
|Principal Chief Michell Hicks and Western Chancellor John Bardo share a handshake and a smile upon the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the university and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.|
CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians pledged to work together to improve educational and economic opportunities, as tribal and university leaders signed documents Friday, Oct. 21, formalizing a long-standing relationship and enhancing ongoing cultural exchange activities.
Principal Chief Michell Hicks of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians and Western Chancellor John W. Bardo signed a memorandum of understanding that is designed to strengthen an existing bond between the university and the Eastern Band.
The ceremony took place in Western's new Fine and Performing Arts Center within a lobby featuring ceramic tiles in the form of a seven-point star representing the seven Cherokee tribal clans. The center also includes signage in Cherokee and English, and lobby walls that are adorned with Cherokee words that roughly translate to “our story lives on.”
In remarks prior to the signing, Bardo said that those words “our story lives on” refers both to the story of the Cherokee people and to the story of the university.
“We are focusing much of our attention at Western these days on engaging with the people of our surrounding communities to work together to solve economic and social problems,” he said. “The documents we are signing today are additional evidence of our commitment to engage with the people of Cherokee for the mutual benefit of the Eastern Band and the university, a reciprocal relationship symbolized by the fact that the documents we sign are written in both the Cherokee language and in English.”
Bardo also said the future of the university, the Cherokee people and the entire Western North Carolina region are “inextricably intertwined.”
“Western has a long tradition of working closely with the people of Cherokee, and today's agreement between the university and the Eastern Band will make those ties even stronger,” he said. “Enhancing this vital relationship will enable us to greatly enrich the academic programs, the cultural diversity, and the regional service mission of the university.”
Hicks commended the university for its past efforts on behalf of the Eastern Band and for formalizing the partnership through the creation of a 14-person task force made up of representatives of the university and the tribe, and charged with developing projects and initiatives.
“Cherokee and Western have had a long, strong relationship, and that is so important to this region as we look to a brighter future – especially in terms of educational opportunities,” said Hicks, wearing traditional Cherokee garb to the ceremony. “We have become true neighbors to each other.”
A 1987 graduate of Western, Hicks told university representatives how much he personally appreciates the solidification of the relationship. “Thank you for keeping and maintaining a responsibility to our people,” he said. “For that, I thank you. I thank you from my heart.”
Marie Junaluska, a member of the Cherokee Tribal Council, opened the ceremony with a prayer recited first in Cherokee, then in English.