Faculty involved in Native health exhibit at library

Tom Belt, Western Carolina University’s Cherokee Language Program coordinator, will be a keynote speaker during the opening ceremony for an exhibit, “Native Voices: Native Peoples’ Concepts of Health and Illness,” at Jackson County Public Library at 6 p.m. Friday, June 23.

The traveling exhibit examines concepts of health and medicine among contemporary native peoples in North America. Belt said he will speak about the holistic idea of the “Tohi approach,” which integrates physical, mental and spiritual interventions into a wellness package, “like three legs of a stool.”

“The word ‘tohi’ describes an intrinsic medical and scientific perception of well being from a Cherokee perspective,” Belt said. “The essence of life is drawn from many sources and improved by understanding those sources.”

The exhibit, produced by the National Library of Medicine, explores the connection between wellness, illness and cultural life through a combination of interviews with native people, artwork, objects and interactive media. The free and open to the public exhibit will be on display through Monday, July 31. Throughout the exhibit showing, the Jackson County Public Library will provide Cherokee-based programming. Scheduled speakers include Lisa J. Lefler, director of Culturally Based Native Health Programs in WCU’s College of Health and Human Sciences, who will explain a medical careers program offered in partnership with Wake Forest University Medical School and local high schools.

Lisa Lefler

“This is a wonderful honor for Jackson County Public Library to be able to host the ‘Native Voices’ traveling exhibit,” Lefler said. “Invited Cherokee speakers will be critical in sharing the complex and important history of health care for Native people. From understanding more about ‘traditional knowledge’ concerning health to the long and often painful history of federal Indian policy that makes the experiences of health care unique for Native populations of this country, their understanding of this region for the past 12,000 years has provided them with a wealth of knowledge and resiliency that has not only allowed them to survive tremendous challenges of colonization, but to thrive.”

The exhibit comes to Sylva as WCU initiates its campus learning theme for the 2017-18 academic year, “Cherokee: Connections, Culture, Community.”

“This exhibition honors the Native tradition of oral history and establishes a unique collection of information,” said Dr. Donald Lindberg, director emeritus of the National Library of Medicine. “We hope visitors will find ‘Native Voices’ both educational and inspirational, and we hope Native people will view it with pride.”

For more information, call the Jackson County Public Library at 828-586-2016.