By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
T.J. Holland held a wealth of knowledge about Cherokee history and culture, and he shared that information with anyone interested in learning. He died in a tragic accident last month, and the Museum of the Cherokee Indian is honoring his legacy of sharing knowledge by naming a room after him henceforth to be known as the T.J. Holland Education Room.
Holland was a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians who worked as the Tribe’s cultural resources manager.
“He shared Cherokee history, not just with tribal members, but colleges, tour groups and so on,” said Dawn Arneach, Museum interim director. “He was who you called. He was always sharing his knowledge about local history that coincided with Cherokee stories.”
A member of the Museum’s Board, Holland frequently held classes with the staff and would lead site tours to explain Cherokee history in a live setting.
Arneach added, “My hope is that this will impress upon tribal members, and visitors alike, that learning and understanding our history does not have to stop. There is more information out there. We are just a starting point.”
Holland was frequently called upon to speak at various events of the Tribe. During an event near the Nikwasi Mound in August 2019, he told the crowd gathered, “It is a blessing to be a member of the Eastern Band and come to the places where our people were and stand in those same spots – to be in the towns that we’ve known were here for thousands of years.”
He was an alumnus of Western Carolina University which has re-named an endowment scholarship the T.J. Holland Memorial Cherokee Studies Scholarship honoring his legacy.
Brett Riggs, WCU’s Sequoyah Distinguished Professor of Cherokee Studies, was a close friend and colleague of Holland and noted in a statement following the announcement of the scholarship that Holland was the “person who translated academic for his Cherokee community and constituency, and who brought understanding of the perspectives of his community to the academy.”