GREENVILLE COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – Furman University has officially recognized that the campus occupies land that once belonged to the Cherokee and other indigenous peoples.
According to Furman, a group from the university presented a framed land acknowledgment to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians on February 2. The Land Acknowledgment was passed by Furman in November 2019. The in-person presentation, at the Tribal Council House in Cherokee, NC, has been delayed multiple times due to COVID-19 precautions.
The university said Ken Peterson, vice president of academic affairs, told the board that recognition of the land would be read on campus at several major events throughout the year. “This will be on the minds of our employees on campus – students, faculty and staff – on a regular basis,” he said.
“We hope that, as all land reconnaissances should, this will be the start of an ongoing relationship with the Cherokee people that involves educating our students and community about Cherokee history and values, as well as about the horrible history of colonialism.”
Ken Peterson, Vice President Academic Affairs
Furman said Peterson was joined by Helen Lee Turner, Reuben B. Pitts professor of religion, Danielle Vinson, professor of politics and international affairs, and Ahna DeCosty, a current student at Furman University and a member of Caddo Nation who represented the American and Furman Indians. Native student association. They brought gifts of Furman mugs for council members and a Furman cookbook for the Cherokee library.
Shelby Parker, a graduate of Furman University and Furman’s first known Cherokee student, grew up in Cherokee and now lives there, officials said. She attended the presentation and told the board how proud she was of her alma mater for doing the recognition. Several board members also thanked Furman.
Officials say the recognition will open more doors at Furman for Native American students, Parker said. “I hope this will encourage more Cherokee students or Native American students to attend,” she said. So will an increased offering of courses covering Native American topics. Vinson teaches a special topics class in the fall on Native American politics. If all goes well, the class could become a must.
Turner, who teaches a MayX in Arizona on Hopi and Navajo, is developing a Cherokee-focused course, according to the university. More courses are in the works, she said, that could lead to a minor in Native American studies. Turner said it was very important that Furman made the trip to Cherokee.
“Tribal representatives were very kind to come to Furman in 2019, but a grounding acknowledgment is about what we need to do to address the real concerns of this declaration. As educators working in traditional Cherokee lands, it is especially important for us to take advantage of the opportunity we have to inform our students and our community of both the atrocities of colonialism and the wisdom of the Cherokee people, a people who focused on the importance of community. on individuality and insisted that future generations be considered in every situation.
Helen Lee Turner, Reuben B. Pitts Professor of Religion
Furman said the land acknowledgment reads:
We acknowledge that Furman University occupies traditional lands of the Cherokee people, land where the Catawba and other Indigenous peoples might also have found food. Long before our Alma Mater sang of the mountain river that washes the feet of “our mother,” the Cherokee honored that water, the land through which it flowed, and all creatures living on the land with it. From the natural world, they also learned to live and form communities of respect. It is with gratitude that we also pay homage to the land and the people who have preserved it for many generations. We must also recognize that we benefit from the loss of Cherokee land and commit to remembering the human cost of colonialism. This recognition of the land challenges us to learn from the Cherokee people and tap into their wisdom about the community, resilience and meaning of life that this land has nurtured.