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Native American Heritage Month observation set with series of campus events

Students from the New Kituwah Academy, the Eastern Band of Cherokee’s language immersion school, get ready to perform a traditional dance during a Youth Powwow held at WCU last spring. Traditional Native American dance and other forms of native culture will return to the campus in a series of November events commemorating Native American Heritage Month. (Photo by Scott McKie Brings Plenty/Cherokee One Feather)

November is Native American Heritage Month, and a series of events and activities is planned by Western Carolina University’s Cherokee Center in celebration of the designation.

“We intend to highlight indigenous cultures that are represented at WCU,” said Sky Sampson, director of the center and an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. “We also want to honor the rich indigenous history that is shared by the Eastern Band and recognize our campus as the sacred homelands of the Cherokee people. Throughout the month, we will explore native traditions, not as a history lesson or museum curation, but as a current, contemporary part of the campus and community.”

The commemorative month is intended to provide a platform for native peoples to share traditional culture, music, crafts, dance and concepts of life. Nationally throughout November, the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum will join together in paying tribute to the ancestry and traditions of Native Americans.

A New Kituwah Academy student takes part in the Youth Powwow at WCU last spring. (Photo by Scott McKie Brings Plenty/Cherokee One Feather)

The Cherokee Center, located at 1594 Acquoni Road, Cherokee, was established in 1975 as an office for outreach and partnership development. The center provides a broad range of assistance for Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians interested in attending WCU, which includes application processes, campus tours, educational workshops, alumni engagement and cultural awareness both on campus and off. The center is the headquarters for all communication between WCU and the Eastern Band.

“We hope to have widespread involvement,” Sampson said. “We want everyone to share in experiences, ask questions and learn, and enjoy.”

Events scheduled:

  • Monday, Nov. 5, Native American Heritage Festival from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the A.K. Hinds University Center lawn (rain location Blue Ridge Conference Center). The festival will feature traditional foods, native crafts, fashion demonstrations, vendors and music and dance performances that represent all tribes with members attending WCU.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 13, “Roc Your Mocs” awareness walk from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., beginning and ending at the fountain at the university’s central plaza. Participants will display solidarity with the Native American social movement. Also, “Reel Injun” film night from 4 to 6 p.m. at A.K. Hinds University Center theater. A film will be followed by discussion on Native American stereotypes as portrayed in movies and TV.
  • Monday, Nov. 26, blowgun and atlatl experience from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Blue Ridge Hall lawn. The first 50 attendees with have an opportunity to try these Cherokee hunting methods.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 27, “Bridging the Gaps Between Technology and Native Peoples” from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at A.K. Hinds University theater. This session will examine how tribes are becoming technologically savvy with native languages and customs.

For more information, contact Sampson at or 828-497-7920.

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