Health, environment highlight Oct. 21-22 events

rooted in the mountains_WebA concert and free symposium to raise awareness of the intersection of environmental, health and indigenous issues related to mountain destruction will be held Thursday and Friday, Oct. 21-22, in the theater of the A.K. Hinds University Center at Western Carolina University.

WCU’s Division of Educational Outreach and Cherokee Studies Program are sponsoring the first “Rooted in the Mountains: Valuing Our Common Ground” with the Center for Native Health, which initiated the project.

A fundraising concert at 6 p.m. Thursday will feature entertainment by Sheila Kay Adams, Tawodi Brown, John John Grant, Kate Larken, Sue Massek, Paula Nelson and the WCU Porch Music Club. Tickets are $5 in advance and $7.50 at the door, with proceeds benefiting iLoveMountains.org, the website of an alliance of nonprofit organizations whose goals include ending mountaintop removal, and Citizens to Protect Kituwah Valley and Swain County, which recently fought Duke Energy over a proposed substation near a site sacred to Cherokee Indians.

The symposium, free and open to the public, will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday. The keynote speaker is Silas House, an acclaimed writer and National Endowment for the Humanities Chair in Appalachian Studies at Berea College. Other presenters include Clara Sue Kidwell (enrolled member of the White Earth Chippewa tribe), director, American Indian Center, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Evelyn Conley (Keetoowah), chair, Indigenous Education Institute; Tom Belt (Cherokee), WCU Cherokee language instructor; Heidi Altman, associate professor of anthropology, Georgia Southern University; ethnobotanist David Cozzo, a WCU faculty member and director of the Revitalization of Traditional Cherokee Artisan Resources; and Brian Byrd, WCU assistant professor of environmental health.

The symposium is in memory of the late siblings Jean Nations Lefler and Dale Nations. “They were the inspiration for the conference because they were so saddened in their last years about what they perceived as destruction to the mountains,” said event organizer Lisa Lefler, WCU associate professor of anthropology, director of WCU’s Culturally Based Native Health Program and executive director for the Center for Native Health. Jean Nations Lefler was her mother; Dale Nations was her uncle.

“Their perceptions prompted me to think more about how our general health and well-being is connected to the land we grow up in,” Lefler said. “Native people have been saying this for years.”

Other sponsors include WCU’s Mountain Heritage Center, Watershed Association of the Tuckasegee River, the Canary Coalition and the Tuckasegee Community Alliance.

Organizers request that participants preregister for the event online at Rooted in the Mountains; buying advance concert tickets also is an online option. For more information, contact Pamela Duncan, symposium co-chair and WCU assistant professor of English, at 828-227-3926.