Rooted in the Mountains: WCU hosts Oct. 4-5 health, language, environment symposium

Press release

from WCU

The third annual Rooted in the Mountains symposium at Western Carolina University will be held Thursday, Oct. 4, and Friday, Oct. 5, at A.K. Hinds University Center.

Rooted in the Mountains is designed to raise awareness of the intersection of health, language, environmental and indigenous issues with the stewardship of Appalachia and its resources. Organizers encourage those interested in the effects of continued destruction of mountain landscapes and learning more about the Native ways of understanding these issues to attend.

Following a 10 a.m. opening on Oct. 4, participants will watch a screening of “GasLand” at 10:30 a.m. in the University Center movie theater. “GasLand” is a 2010 documentary film focusing on communities in the U.S. affected by natural gas drilling; a facilitated discussion will follow the film.

Also on Oct. 4, in the UC Grandroom: keynote speaker Katsi Cook (Mohawks of Akwesasne) at 2 p.m.; a panel discussion titled “Teaching Native American Studies Across Disciplines,” featuring WCU faculty and staff members Tom Belt, Roseanna Belt, Mae Claxton and Jane Eastman, as well as T.J. Holland, cultural resources manager for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, at 3:30 p.m.; and a 6:30 p.m. concert featuring Sheila Kay Adams, Where’s Mike Jones? and the Downhome Divas.

All events Oct. 5 will be held in the University Center Grandroom. At 9 a.m., keynote speaker Mary Berry Smith, president of the Berry Center and daughter of writer, activist and farmer Wendell Berry, will speak about the human connection to the land and commitment to the idea of living well without doing harm.

Also Oct. 5: “The Snowbird Doula Project: Working through Language,” with Margaret Bender, associate professor of cultural/linguistic anthropology at Wake Forest University, and Eastern Band tribal elders Sally Smoker and Myrtle Driver, at 10:30 a.m.; “Patient-Centered Practice with Native Science in Mind,” with Danna Park, medical director of Mission Hospital’s integrative medicine program, at 1:30 p.m.; “Healing Touch Nursing: Working with the Cherokee Community,” with Healing Touch practitioner Nancy Stephens and WCU staff member and Eastern Band tribal elder Roseanna Belt at 2 p.m.; and a panel discussion titled “Language and Wellness,” with Hartwell Francis and Tom Belt of the WCU Cherokee Language Program, Renissa Walker, manager of the Kituwah Preservation and Education Program in Cherokee, and Walter Wolfram, a faculty member at N.C. State University and director of the North Carolina Language and Life Project, at 2:45 p.m.; and closing remarks at 4 p.m.

Early registration is available through Sept. 28 for $75 and then increases to $125. Registration is available online at

For more information about the symposium, contact Pam Duncan, an event organizer and faculty member in the WCU Department of English, at or 828-227-3926.

About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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