By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Amanda Swimmer, Beloved Woman of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, passed away on the morning of Saturday, Nov. 24 at the age of 97. A noted potter and fluent Cherokee speaker, she was known as much for her smile and can-do attitude as she was her artwork and cultural knowledge.
“Amanda Swimmer embodied all the characteristics of what it means to be a Cherokee elder,” said Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed. “Amanda was a pillar for her family, the Big Cove Community and the EBCI. She will be sorely missed for her humor, kindness, and wisdom. My thoughts and prayers are with her family during this difficult time.”
Chief Sneed approved administrative leave for all tribal employees for Thursday, Nov. 29 in honor of Swimmer’s passing. “We are all saddened by the loss of our Beloved Woman Amanda Swimmer, but we are grateful for the time we had to share with her and the wisdom she passed on to us. I hope you take this time to remember the values she embodied and encouraged us to demonstrate. I also hope you take this opportunity to spend time with the elders in your life.”
A public visitation will occur on Wednesday, Nov. 28 at Yellowhill Baptist Church at 5 p.m., and funeral services will be held on Thursday at 1 p.m. at the church.
Vice Chief Alan B. Ensley commented, “Our Tribe has lost a treasure with the passing of Mrs. Amanda Swimmer. A beloved woman, Amanda was a renowned artist and a devoted mother. But, my best memory of her is when she came to Tribal Council to advocate for the safety of our school children and for the Big Cove Community. The issue of an emergency road was one which brought Amanda to tribal leaders many times. Her voice and her presence will be missed in our community.”
Swimmer was bestowed the titled of Beloved Woman earlier this year with the passage of Res. No. 104 by Tribal Council on Feb. 1. The resolution, submitted by Big Cove Rep. Richard French, passed unanimously, and read in part, “Amanda Sequoyah Swimmer, a member of the Big Cove Community, has dedicated her life to the preservation of the Cherokee culture and language by demonstrating and teaching countless children and adults the art of pottery making, serving as a foster grandparent, sharing stories and knowledge of traditional Cherokee dances and practices to anyone willing to learn…”
Following passage of that resolution, Swimmer commented to the crowd, “You look pretty. Stay pretty and do the right thing that you should do for the people. And, put the Lord first in everything you do. Don’t leave him out. He’s going to show you what you have to do. He’s shown me a lot of times, and he’s in my heart.”
Some of the prestigious recognitions given to Swimmer over the years include: North Carolina Heritage Award (1994), Senior Miss Cherokee (2003), honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from UNC – Asheville (2005), Mountain Heritage Award (2009), and being included in an exhibition of Folk Heritage Award-winning potters (2014). She was also one of three women featured in a 2000 Native Heritage Project documentary entitled “Women of These Hills” in addition to being featured, along with other Cherokee potters, in a 2011 book by Anna Fariello entitled “Cherokee Pottery: From the Hands of Our Elders”.
Swimmer was quoted in the Folk Life Program of the North Carolina Arts Council in 2009 as saying, “I always think about my old ancestors, and I ought to just keep going and keep making pottery and teaching others to make pottery.”
When asked about her passing, Micah Swimmer, Amanda’s grandson, noted, “Right now, the only thing that rings in my head is something my brother Jake said when he learned of her passing. He said, ‘She finally opened her eyes and was happy with what she saw.’”