Letter: Questions about Indigenous Walls Project and founder

Graphic by Lori Deaton

[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 noteXpress 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.”



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5 thoughts on “Letter: Questions about Indigenous Walls Project and founder

  1. Curious

    Since the letter writer questions the bona fides of Jared Wheatley, I’m curious to know if Mountain Xpress verifies names/phone numbers/addresses/emails/identities of letter writers before publishing their letters. What are Ms. Heimer’s qualifications for questioning Mr. Wheatley’s qualifications?

    • Thomas Calder

      Hi Curious, we do require that all letter writers submit their full name, street address and phone number for verification purposes prior to publishing a letter.

    • Other Curious

      Wheatley mistakenly assumes that the questions posed come from a place of racism. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is in fact a formal institution to which one may or may not belong, and there are rules and regulations for when one may be representing this institution in an official capacity. Wheatley seems to enjoy living in a limnal space where he conducts himself in certain manners in the public eye, exploiting his membership to this institution when it benefits him, and claiming others are racist when they question it. Institutional membership does not necessarily equate to racial identity and his conflation of this to the detriment of the one who posed the question is concerning.

  2. Other Curious

    Wheatley’s response uses a common tactic to paint legitimate questions as racist, when they are not. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is a formal institution. To ask whether one is an official member of a formal institution is not inherently racist. Membership to any given institution does not necessarily equate to a members’ racial identity. (Note: to be enrolled in the EBCI you must demonstrate direct lineal ancestry. They do not ask whether or not one identifies racially as such.) Wheatley enjoys living in a liminal space where he leverages and conflates his membership with his racial identity for his personal gain, and he is allowed to do this via fear-mongering where he threatens people by accusing them of racism if they question his memberships or his official capacity in representing the EBCI. This kind of behavior, unchallenged, threatens civil dialogue and makes him dangerous.

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