“Plants for Food and Medicine” is the theme for Western Carolina University’s sixth annual symposium, Rooted in the Mountains: Valuing our Common Ground, coming up Thursday, Sept. 24, and Friday, Sept. 25.
The symposium is a collaborative meeting that seeks to integrate indigenous and local knowledge with health and environmental issues. Both Appalachian and Native worldviews are addressed in an attempt to better understand the issues and dynamics of humanity’s place and relationship with the natural world, as well as understand the challenges that arise in an ever-changing world.
Rooted in the Mountains also reflects the importance of language, as it is within language that traditional or indigenous epistemologies are preserved, event organizers said.
Presenters will include community members from Cherokee and the surrounding areas as well as professionals, activists, academics and researchers who work with plants.
“Rooted in the Mountains reminds us of the power of place. We meet our neighbors and strengthen our connections,” said Hartwell Francis, director of WCU’s Cherokee language program. “We tell each other about our experiences in these beautiful mountains and we reaffirm our commitments to study together to better understand ourselves in our environment.”
Cherokee elder Tom Belt, coordinator of WCU’s Cherokee language program, and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians cultural resource officer T.J. Holland, a resident of the Snowbird community, will be the Native keynote speakers on day one of the symposium. They will be discussing the Cherokee concept of “Duyuktvi,” the tribe’s philosophy to bring harmony and balance to every aspect of life.
Tom Hatley, formerly Sequoyah Distinguished Professor at WCU, will give the keynote address on day two. Hatley will discuss the human relationship with local forests in his presentation “How the Sequoia Got Its Name: Stories We Tell about Forests (and Ourselves).” In addition to being a nationally recognized historian and Cherokee scholar, Hatley also has trained as a forester and historian at Davidson, Duke and Yale. He has worked for more than 30 years on strategies for collaborative and cross-cultural social investment in agriculture, health and land recovery.
Rooted in the Mountains will be held at WCU’s Health and Human Sciences Building from 9:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Sept. 24, with a mountain music concert featuring the Haywood Travelers at 6:30 p.m. The symposium will continue on Sept. 25 from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Registration is $125 for adults and $25 for students, with a limited number of student scholarships available.
For more information and to register, visit rootedinthemtns.wcu.edu or call 828-227-7397.