WCU hosts a Trail of Tears symposium, April 11

Press release from WCU:

Western Carolina University will host a daylong symposium titled “Cherokee Challenges and Tribulations: Exploring Scholarship, Memory and Commemoration” on Wednesday, April 11, in the Grandroom of A.K. Hinds University Center.

Free and open to the public, the 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. event will mark the Trail of Tears route designated as a national historic trail by the National Park Service, as well as celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act declaration by Congress.

The national historic trail designation aids in the historical interpretation of the forced removal of the Cherokee from their homeland in the 1830s to present-day Oklahoma, now known as the “Trail of Tears” for its brutality and death toll. The significant locations include sites of military posts, roads used for movements of troops and Cherokee deportees, and sites of Cherokee organization and resistance. Today, the National Trail of Tears Historic Trail spans nine states, including North Carolina, and covers 5,043 miles of water and land routes.

The symposium is presented by the National Trail of Tears Association, the North Carolina Trail of Tears Association and WCU’s College of Arts and Sciences, and Department of History.

Speakers include three citizens of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma: Jack Baker, president of the National Trail of Tears Association and the Oklahoma Historical Society; Will Chavez, editor of the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper; and Troy Wayne Poteete, executive director of the National Trail of Tears Association. Regional speakers include Mike Wrenn of the Alabama Trail of Tears Association and Jeff Bishop of the Georgia Trail of Tears Association, who also is director of the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society.

Casey Cooper, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and CEO of the Cherokee Indian Hospital, will speak on the role of memory and commemoration in Cherokee families and communities, along with Chavez. Both are alumni of the annual “Remember the Removal Bike Ride,” which retraces the 950-mile journey of the Trail of Tears. WCU speakers will be Brett Riggs, Sequoyah Distinguished Professor of Cherokee Studies, and Ben Steere, director of the Cherokee Studies Program. In addition, Diane Weddington of the National Trails System Act 50th anniversary committee will share plans for further recognition and celebrations.

WCU’s 2017-18 interdisciplinary learning theme is “Cherokee: Community. Culture. Connections.” The theme encourages faculty, staff and students to immerse themselves in the Cherokee culture through conversations, programming and opportunities to take a holistic look at the original inhabitants of the region and the ground that the WCU campus is built upon.

“We are excited for this opportunity to partner with WCU to present this symposium to honor and commemorate the Cherokee people,” said Sue Abram, president of the North Carolina Trail of Tears Association.

Preregistration for the symposium is encouraged. Public parking is available in the Coulter Building and Reid Gymnasium metered parking lots.  For more information, contact Abram at smabram@wcu.edu or 828-227-2735, or Anne Rogers at rogers@wcu.edu.

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