Skip to main content

Land Acknowledgment

Western Carolina University is situated in the northern Cullowhee Valley, centrally located along the Tuckasegee River in the Appalachian Mountains of southwestern North Carolina. This is the Cherokee homeland, and the Qualla Boundary, seat of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, is located about 20 miles downstream from the campus area. It is the only public university established on the site of a named Cherokee town and a traditional sacred place.

For questions or concerns please contact Sky Sampson, Director of the Cherokee Center at snsampson@wcu.edu or Ben Steere, Cherokee Studies Program Director at basteere@wcu.edu or Chief Diversity Officer Ricardo Nazario-Colón at rnazariocolon@wcu.edu

Why a Land Acknowledgement Statement

Students and staff of Cherokee heritage, dressed in traditional oufits

 

Land Acknowledgements have been utilized in higher education events and activities to give respect and recognition to the ancestors that were here before the institution was established and expanded. It considers Western North Carolina’s rich indigenous culture dating back 13,000 years. In doing so, the university encourages public awareness about the past, present and future of indigenous identity thriving in both the community and campus. Use of the Land Acknowledgement also inspires partnership, collaboration and active relationship building between WCU and the EBCI.

Sacred Homelands of the Cherokee People

Evidence of this traditional town is found in many known archaeological sites on WCU’s campus. The most prominent was the earthen mound that stood in the area of Killian Building until 1956, when the mound was demolished to accommodate construction of what has become the academic core of the university. In 1888, Cherokee elders related that the mound was called “Tsisksitsi,” a contracted name meaning “where the sparrows are typical/abundant.” That recently rediscovered name links the mound at WCU to “Tali Tsiskwaya,” “The Two Sparrows,” a place that traditional histories identify as the Cherokees’ original settlement in the southern Appalachians, and a home of the Nunnehi, the Immortals.

Type and Uses of Land Acknowledgements

Informal

This version of the land acknowledgement can be used for informal occasions such as the first class, meeting, staff/faculty meetings, sponsored events, conferences or activities for each school year. Acknowledgement will be available for use in specific campus locations based on attendance throughout the year. The text below can be included in class syllabi, email signatures, and social media outlets.

In keeping with the dignity of the land acknowledgement, a faculty/staff leader or student government leader should read the acknowledgement.

The acknowledgement must be read as written:

The Western Carolina University campus is situated within the ancestral homelands of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. At WCU our work seeks to embrace and connect to this Cherokee landscape as we work to reinforce our mission at WCU. We will work to actively engage our community with the extraordinary indigenous identity and culture of this special place that was once known as Two Sparrows Place.

Formal

This version of the land acknowledgment is reserved for formal, official occasions of WCU governing bodies (opening trustee quarterly meetings, faculty senate regular meetings, staff senate regular meetings, etc.) or official entities or sponsored events of the university (opening college meetings, conferences held on campus, etc.).

In keeping with the dignity of the land acknowledgement, a senior campus leader or board official (chancellor, board chair, senate chair, etc. should read the acknowledgement.

The acknowledgement must be read as written:

Western Carolina University is situated within the ancestral homelands of the Cherokee people, twenty miles from present-day Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian communities of the Qualla Boundary. The campus occupies Two Sparrows Place (Tali Tsisgwayahi, ᏔᎵ ᏥᏍᏆᏯᎯ), an ancient principal town with a mound and council house where Killian Building now stands. Cullowhee, the university’s home, is Tsul’kalawi (ᏧᎳᎦᎳᏫ) or Judaculla’s Place. This giant being was the Great Teacher and steward of the natural world, and ancient stories about Judaculla tell of the Creator and creation, the origin of humans, and the proper way to be Cherokee. We at Western Carolina University inherit these stories so that we may better understand the deep significance of this beloved place and our role here.

We are dedicated to supporting the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and all indigenous tribes throughout the world in achieving futures of their own making. We will continue to collaborate with tribal nations to address the challenges at hand, and we want each of you to accept the charge of learning and supporting our relationship with indigenous people during your time at WCU. This work acknowledges our sense of place and reinforces our mission at Western Carolina University.

View the formal land acknowledgement document

Pronunciations 

Two Sparrows Place

  • Cherokee Language - ᏔᎵ ᏥᏍᏆᏯᎯ
  • Phonetics: Ta-li Tsi-s-gwa-ya-hi
  • Pronounced as Ta-lee Zi-squa-ya-hee or Ta-lee  Jee-squa-ya-hee 

Judaculla’s Place

  • Cherokee Language - Tsul’kalawi ᏧᎳᎦᎳᏫ
  • Cherokee Phonetics – Tsu- l(a)-ka-la-wi or Tsu-l-ka-la-wi
  • Pronounced as Juul-ka-la-wee   Or zuul-ka-la-wee

Restrictions

The land acknowledgement is a symbol of respect and recognition and must be used as such. Restrictions for its use are as follows: 

  • Daily verbal use of the land acknowledgement in meetings, classes etc. are not recommended.
  • Formal displayed acknowledgements must be printed by the WCU Print shop on cardstock paper in a 16 x 20 colored copy and appropriately framed.
  • Informal land acknowledgement as written above is the only appropriate instance to be used within email signatures and professional sharing on social media pathways.
  • A full reading of the entire formal land acknowledgment should be approved in advance by the Chancellor’s office, Diversity Office, or WCU Cherokee Center.

Additional Resources

Office of Web Services