Around town: Celebrating Cherokee language preservation

SAVING TSALAGI: Songwriter Kalyn Fay (Cherokee Nation, Muscogee Creek), who performs on the album Anvdvnelisgi (ᎠᏅᏛᏁᎵᏍᎩ), will perform at The Way We Speak with the World on Aug. 5. Photo courtesy of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian will hold a free, two-night community event celebrating the Cherokee language at the Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center at Cherokee Central School at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 4, and Saturday, Aug. 5.

The Way We Speak the World will kick off on Friday with a screening of “Dadiwonisi (ᏓᏗᏬᏂᏏ),” or “We Will Speak.” This documentary chronicles the efforts of Cherokee activists, artists and educators to save Tsalagi, the Cherokee language. Members of the film’s production team will participate in a Q&A session following the screening.

On Saturday, a Cherokee language concert will feature Cherokee Nation musicians who contributed to the 2022 compilation album Anvdvnelisgi (ᎠᏅᏛᏁᎵᏍᎩ).

The event highlights the urgency of language preservation and honors those who are working to preserve, learn and teach Tsalagi. North Carolina’s Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians estimates that only 152 of its 16,800 enrolled members fluently speak the language.

“Some context that is important to know when talking about language preservation is that at one time, our language, culture, traditions and spirituality were actively being suppressed,” says Shana Bushyhead Condill (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians), executive director of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. “Until the late 1970s and the passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, it was illegal for Native people to practice ceremony. I think it’s important to note that’s within my lifetime.

My grandfather Robert Bushyhead was punished for speaking Cherokee and made a conscious decision not to teach his children, including my father, in order to protect them from what he suffered. All of us in that situation are what is known as second-language speakers because Cherokee is not our first language.”

In the 1980s, Condill’s grandfather realized the dangers of losing the language and worked with other tribal members to develop curricula to teach in schools. Now the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has an immersion school, as well as a council of first-language speakers who maintain the language by consensus and collect oral histories developed by language specialists. Cherokee Central School also has a strong Tsalagi program.

“Through oral traditions, our Cherokee culture has been able to survive for millions of years,” says Shennelle Feather (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Diné, Lakota), education program manager at the museum, in a press release. “This event is honoring our language through film and music — two modern ways of sharing stories — and proves that we are still using oral history to teach the world and remind ourselves that we are still here. That our language is not dead, it is living, it is and can evolve just like the people who speak it and have spoken it since time immemorial.”

Cherokee Central School is at 86 Elk Crossing Lane in Cherokee. Registration is required for the event. For more information, visit

Chef Moss, artist

Many recognize Elliott Moss as a chef but may be surprised to hear he considers himself an artist first.

On Friday, Aug. 4, 5-7 p.m., Moss’ art can be viewed during an opening event for his art show at Harvest Records. The show will consist mostly of watercolors, with some pencil and ink drawings, comic book-related art and photography.

“It’s a collection of things I’ve doodled or drawn or painted over the past year and a half,” says Moss. “It’s inspirations just from everyday life, like anything, or nothing in particular — it’s just whatever you see.”

Moss says he took an interest in art at a very young age. “I took every art class that was available, first through 12th grade. I gave up the dream of being a visual artist a long time ago, [thinking] there’s no way I could make a living doing that. But I’ve always kind of dabbled with media arts.”

This will be Moss’ first official art show in close to 20 years, since he shared a studio in Columbia, S.C. He says he picked up art again when he stopped drinking alcohol three years ago and was trying to find hobbies that would “give me something to do and keep my mind off things.” He used to live across the street from Harvest Records, and he reached out to the owners in January about putting together a show.

Moss will bring his portable wood grill to the event and will cook kebabs and vegetables. “I’ll be there just to hang out and chat with anybody who wants to talk about my art,” he says. “I’m excited to see some friends and some new faces out there.”

Moss’ art will remain on display at the record shop during August.

Harvest Records is at 415 Haywood Road. For more information, visit

‘The Granddaddy’ of all festivals

The oldest continually running folk festival in the nation will take place at UNC Asheville’s Lipinsky Auditorium from Thursday, Aug. 3-Saturday, Aug. 5, at 7 p.m.

Nicknamed “The Granddaddy” of all festivals, the 96th Mountain Dance & Folk Festival will feature the traditions of the Southern Appalachian mountains through over 60 performances of music, dance and storytelling each evening.

In addition, the third Youth Talent Celebration will be held in the auditorium on Saturday, 2-4 p.m., with around 75 students and their instructors showcasing how these traditions are being continued.

The festival began in 1928 when folklorist Bascom Lamar Lunsford was asked by the city of Asheville to create a showcase that would promote Appalachian music, dance and storytelling during that year’s Rhododendron Festival. The popularity of the event led to the creation of the Mountain Dance & Folk Festival.

“The preservation of these music, dance and storytelling traditions keeps us grounded in who we are, and pays tribute to those on whose shoulders we stood to reach this time, in this place,” says festival co-chair Judy Miller.

Lipinsky Auditorium is in UNCA’s Lipinksy Hall at 300 Library Lane. For more information, visit

Arts for Schools grant applications

The Arts for Schools grant is open for applications, announces ArtsAVL, the designated arts agency for Buncombe County.

The grant is open to any 501(c)3 nonprofit arts organizations or qualified teaching artists in Buncombe County that will provide arts-focused performances, workshops, residencies and field trips for public school students in grades K-12. Grants range from $500 to $2,000. Applicants must have at least five years of experience working in arts education, and the programs proposed must align with North Carolina’s Common Core curriculum and standards. Projects should take place before June 30, 2024.

Priority will be given to projects benefiting underserved and economically disadvantaged schools and, secondarily, to multicultural programs — in keeping with ArtsAVL’s mission “to keep the arts at the heart of the community.”

For more information and to apply, visit

Making a statement

Local self-taught designer and artist Sala Menaya will hold a fashion show in honor of Black community leaders on Friday, Aug. 4, 6-8:30 p.m., at the Foundry Hotel Asheville.

The invitation-only show will feature Menaya’s statement neckpieces, which are inspired by the African diaspora. The models are the 23 honorees, who include Asheville City Manager Debra Campbell and Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller. Jazz vocalist Kat Williams will perform.

Menaya began creating while living in Savannah, Ga., making large headpieces to be worn in the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. She then began to make handbags, accessories and jewelry with both beads and fabric. She says she learned from the women in her family that “accessorizing makes the outfit.”

Menaya first shared her creations on social media and in October 2021 left her job to make jewelry full time.

“I believe that one of my greatest inspirations is from my ancestors, as I just recently discovered through DNA that my people are from Cameroon — the Tikar tribe who are artists, artisans and storytellers,” she says. “They also specialize in creating intricate masks. It explained to me why I do what I do.”

Menaya notes that the honorees she chose have inspired her with their work in the community and reflect her own values.

“It is my hope that this event will be one that showcases in a different way the beauty, strength, resilience, greatness and power that we hold as Black people in Asheville.”

The Foundry Hotel is at 51 S. Market St. For more information, visit


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About Andy Hall
Andy Hall graduated from The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. After working at the United States Capitol for ten years, she has returned to her native state to enjoy the mountains — and finally become a writer.

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