[Regarding “Sign of the Times: Indigenous Walls Project Recruits Local Business Allies,” Dec. 6, Xpress:]
It came to my attention that the local newspaper is promoting someone who is not a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians tribe.
It is also concerning that Mountain Xpress takes only Jared Wheatley’s word for things and does not seem to fact-check his references or past history. Has anyone seen his tribal identity card from Oklahoma?
Although Jared was able to coordinate Native American artists across the country to participate in the Indigenous Walls Project, he neglected to go through the EBCI language council to approve the use of the language he himself is just now learning. I also wonder if the Native artists participating received full transparency.
I highly suggest Mountain Xpress reach out to the EBCI to get their opinion on the matter, as that is the true representation the city of so-called Asheville needs.
— Jules Heimer
Editor’s note: Xpress contacted the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians through the Principal Chief’s office but did not receive a response.
Prior to our reporting, Wheatley provided Xpress his tribal identity card. He is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.
We also reached out to Wheatley regarding the writer’s points, and he provided the following response: “I am a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and a TERO [Tribal Employment Rights Office] certified artist (recognized by my nation). The issue at hand is that open and public racism is allowed, accepted and sometimes encouraged by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members.
“The reader may not feel comfortable asking how ‘Black’ a Black person is, but the same is not true with regard to indigeneity. We are trained to receive and perpetuate these racist, colonialist and genocidal remarks. Ask yourself these questions:
• Would I feel comfortable asking these questions of another race?
• What do I know of indigeneity personally?
• How has my life experience belittled Indigenous people openly (reflect on land ‘ownership,’ mysticism in media and assumptions about skin color)?
• If I have stood against an Indigenous person, why have I and to what end?
• Why would an Indigenous person need to ask to use and be a part of their language?
• What other ethnicity/race is this bar set for?
“If this message unsettles you or makes you question the author, then the work to be done is gardening the weeds in your own heart.”