Robert J. Conley, the Sequoyah Distinguished Professor of Cherokee Studies at Western Carolina University, is the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award winner from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas.
A novelist, short story writer, poet and essayist, Conley is the author of more than 50 books. They include “Back to Malachi,” “Ned Christie’s War,” “Mountain Windsong: A Novel of the Trail of Tears,” “The Dark Way,” “War Woman” and “Cherokee Dragon.”
Conley has won the Spur Award from the Western Writers of America for the novels Nickajack and The Dark Island, and for his short story “Yellow Bird: An Imaginary Autobiography.” Earlier this year, he received the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book.
Conley assumed his duties as an endowed professor at Western Carolina University in 2008, prior to which he was a professional writer and served as programs director of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. The endowed professorship was established in 1998 and is dedicated to the preservation of Cherokee and Native American culture, heritage and values.
A registered tribal member of the Cherokee Nation, Conley taught throughout the Midwest and was attracted to the mountains of Western North Carolina by the opportunity to connect with ancient Cherokee history. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Midwestern University in Wichita Falls, Texas.
Conley will be honored, along with the winners of the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas’ First Book Awards for Poetry and Prose, during the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers Festival at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in late October.
For more information about Cherokee studies, contact the program office at (828) 227-3841.