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WCU to celebrate Native American Heritage Month with slate of campus events

digali'i members


By Julia Duvall

November is Native American Heritage Month and Western Carolina University has a lineup of events for students, faculty and staff to immerse themselves in the history, culture and traditions of indigenous peoples of North America. 

The recognition is intended to provide a platform for native peoples to share traditional culture, music, crafts, dance and concepts of life, as well as raise awareness of their history and challenges. This designation is especially poignant as WCU is the only public university established on the site of a named Cherokee town and a traditional sacred place. 

“To many, this place is called WCU, but to many more and for much longer this place has been called in the Cherokee language Tali Tsisgwayahi and in English, Two Sparrows Town,” said Seth Penn, chair of WCU’s Digali’i Native American Student Organization. “As we celebrate Native American Heritage Month this November, it is crucial to acknowledge and celebrate the rich and diverse Indigenous history of our community here at WCU," Penn said. 

The purpose of Digali'i is to provide the opportunities for learning and promoting Native American history, culture, contributions and for volunteering in Native communities. Digali'i is committed to promoting the significance of indigenous culture and contributions to the campus of WCU and surrounding communities as well as the significance of all Native American tribes. 

Digali’i, along with WCU’s Cherokee Center, Intercultural Affairs, WCU Fine Art Museum and Cherokee Studies Program will be hosting several events on campus throughout the month. 

Upcoming events are: 

  • “Spark of the Eagle Dancer: The Collecting Legacy of Lambert Wilson” - WCU Fine Art Museum, Bardo Arts Center, through Dec. 8. 
  • A Century of Cherokee Maskmaking - Mountain Heritage Center, through March 2024. 
  • James A. Cooper Memorial Lecture in Cherokee Studies 
  • Benjamin Frey (UNC Chapel Hill): “May History Show Us the Way: The Roots of Cherokee Language Endangerment and Paths for Reclamation,” Nov. 8, 5:30 p.m., UC Theater and Nov. 9, 5:30 p.m., Museum of the Cherokee People, Cherokee. 
  • Cherokee Gourd Workshop – Nov. 14, 5 p.m., Picnic area (behind the softball field) 
  • Rock Your Mocs Walk – Nov. 15, 11 a.m., Fountain Area, WCU Campus 
  • Intercultural Affairs will also be installing an exhibit about Cherokee and Indigenous students and alumni in the UC in November. 

“Through our Indigenous student association at WCU, we maintain this close connection to the rich stories and heritage this place holds to the Cherokee people, and especially the EBCI,” Penn said. “We strive to promote a diverse and inclusive culture here at WCU that honors the past and embraces the bright future of our community.” 

For more information about Digali’i, visit WCU’s website.

WCU’s Cherokee Center is located at 1594 Acquoni Road, Cherokee, and is the headquarters for communication between WCU and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. 

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