WCU to name archaeological facility after original Cherokee town name

by Mar 14, 2019NEWS ka-no-he-da





Western Carolina University has garnered approval from Tribal Council and the Cherokee Speakers group to name the newly re-opened archaeological collections curation facility the Tali Tsisgwayahi Archaelogical (Two Sparrows Town) Collections. The name reflects the original name of the area in the Cherokee language.

Tribal Council approved unanimously Res. No. 524 (2019), during its regular session on Thursday, March 14, that states, “…WCU now assumes responsibility as the official repository for United States Forest Service-owned collections of materials associated with the Cherokee Trail of Tears”.  The legislation was submitted by Sky N. Sampson, WCU Cherokee Center director; Bo Lossiah, Kituwah Preservation and Education Program; Dr. Brett Riggs, WCU Sequoyah Distinguished Professor of Cherokee Studies; and Dr. Sara Snyder Hopkins, WCU Cherokee Language Program director.

Dr. Riggs said during Thursday’s discussion on the resolution, “We wanted to do this in order to keep the Cherokee identity and the identity of that particular place in mind of everyone on campus, and we think that this will be a lasting reminder.  We will then compel faculty and staff to learn how to say the name itself in proper Cherokee.”

The resolution gives a summary of the historical significance of the name and area, “In 1826, Cherokee Assistant Principal Chief, Charles R. Hicks, wrote a wrote a series of letters to future Chief John Ross to educate him on traditional history and prepare him for leadership roles.  In these letters, Hicks relates a migration story from the 1770s that concludes with Cherokees settling at a place called Two Sparrows (Tali Tsisgwayahi), near the head of the Tuckasegee River.  Another elder, who gave testimony in the 1830s, identifies Two Sparrows as a holy place, where the surrounding hills were supposed to contain large villages of immortals.”

It went on to state, “In 1887, Smithsonian ethnographer James Mooney recorded Cherokee sources who referred to the mound and ancient town site on what is now WCU’s central campus as Tsisksitsi, meaning ‘a place typified by sparrows’.  Mooney’s Tsisk(waya)sitsi (where the sparrows are, in a typical fashion) and Hicks’ Tali Tsisgwayahi (Two Sparrows Place) appear to be the same and designate the place that Western Carolina University is now located.”

Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed thanked those responsible for bringing the resolution forward and said, “I think it is imperative that everyone in the community is aware of the relationship that we have with Western Carolina University.  It’s very unique in that the university, probably unlike any other organization in the region, is very mindful of the fact that the property on which they reside was a Cherokee town and that there was a mound there.”

He added, “I’m just very grateful to the Board of Trustees, to the Chancellor, to Dr. Riggs and his staff for honoring and recognizing the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the history of the land on which they reside.”

Following the vote, Big Cove Rep. Perry Shell commented, “I think it’s very important that we name locations and sites in traditional names, Cherokee names.  I would like to see more of that on tribal lands because there are several locations that are called something other than what the Cherokee name for it is.”

Three Cherokee fluent speakers and members of the Cherokee Speakers group signed the legislation approving the Cherokee language within including: Beloved Woman Myrtle Driver, Charlie Bigwitch, and Roger Smoker.