Mountain Heritage Day’s focus on Cherokee culture reflects campus learning theme

Western Carolina University’s Mountain Heritage Day always has included Cherokee folkways, arts and crafts and the popular stickball games as a part of the daylong activities.

Scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 30, this year’s festival will have added significance as WCU embraces an interdisciplinary campus learning theme of “Cherokee: Community. Culture. Connections.” During the year, faculty and students will engage in topics and explore topics related to the learning theme. The goal is to foster campus conversations and connect students with collaborative opportunities for an integrated campuswide experience.

Cherokee arts and crafts are distinguished by intricate detail and masterful artistry.

Through its celebration of the music, dance, arts and crafts of Southern Appalachia, Mountain Heritage Day always has included the native people of the region, said Stacy MacGregor, WCU special events director and event co-chair. “We see this as an excellent opportunity to continue the relationship with the Eastern Band of Cherokee and make a big contribution to the campus learning theme,” MacGregor said.

Among Cherokee-related highlights scheduled for this year:

  • Warriors of AniKituwah is a traditional dance group that re-creates the ancient dances of the Cherokee. The group won the Mountain Heritage Award in 2007. They will perform twice, at the stickball field and again at the Balsam Stage.
  • Lloyd Arneach is a storyteller who blends humor with informative and moving tales, whether contemporary or the “old stories” told by ancestors.
  • Butch Goings, Edward Goings and Louise Goings will demonstrate woodcarving and Cherokee basket-making. The family members have come to Mountain Heritage Day since the 1980s and Louise has demonstrated basketry at the Smithsonian Institution.
  • John Henry Maney, Johnnie Ruth Maney and Nancy Maney will host a living history exhibit with examples of pottery making, beadwork and traditional Cherokee clothing, all part of a family legacy that goes back generations.
  • Lloyd Owle will present Cherokee stone carving demonstrations. His knowledge of legends and stories to carve masks, birds and animals has led to the description of his work as “realistic with subtle emphasis on the mystical.” In addition to his stone and wood carving, Owle speaks on Cherokee culture, history and spirituality.
  • Big Cove Youth (Kolanvyi) and Hummingbird (Wa–le–lv) stickball teams, playing in a perennial favorite at Mountain Heritage Day, with action taking place in a highly visible area on the festival grounds. The modern game is derived from ancient Cherokee contests, often referred to as the “little brother of war” for its ferocity. The game has some resemblance to lacrosse.
  • New Kituwah Academy Traditional Singers are an ensemble from a Cherokee language immersion school who sing pop and traditional songs in the Cherokee language.

Mountain Heritage Day is part of the Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina, with www.BlueRidgeMusicNC.com providing an easy and convenient way to find festivals, concerts, jam sessions and plenty of singing and dancing to the traditional music of Western North Carolina. To learn more about WCU’s festival, visit www.mountainheritageday.com or call 828-227-3039.