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Virtual event on Native American health issues, clean water

By Kenneth Goode

Iron Bridge Falls


Western Carolina University’s Culturally-Based Native Health Program will hold a free webinar on Native American and indigenous peoples’ health issues Thursday, Sept. 24, as a lead-up event for the rescheduled Rooted in the Mountains symposium.

The event will be streamed live from noon to 1:30 p.m. with the theme “Ama: The Sacredness of Water.” A panel will feature Lisa J. Lefler, program director; Tom Belt, former Cherokee language instructor at WCU; and Jerry R. Miller, professor in the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resources.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual symposium has been moved to April 8, 2021.

Lefler, associate professor at WCU and an applied medical anthropologist, has worked with numerous tribal communities, including the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Kiowa and Apache. She organizes workshops to bring tribal elders into a worldview, to create positive shifts in the approach to health, wellness and environmental concerns.

Belt, retired coordinator of WCU’s program in Cherokee language, is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and has lectured at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Purdue, Yale, University of Pennsylvania and Stanford. Belt serves a consultant for the Center of Native Health and the Smithsonian Institution’s Native Culture and Health Workgroup.

The Whitmire Distinguished Professor of Environmental Science at WCU, Miller has more than 25 years of experience in the fields of geomorphology and environmental geology. He has published the results of his research in more than 65 referred articles and has co-authored six books including “Process Geomorphology and Contaminated Rivers: A Geomorphological and Geochemical Approach to Site Assessment.” He and his colleagues have received more $3.5 million in external funding for their research.

Registration links for the webinar and rescheduled Rooted in the Mountains symposium at


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