By Cherokee One Feather Editorial Board
The area known of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park known as Clingman’s Dome has been known for thousands of years by Cherokee people as Kuwahi (“mulberry place”). It is time to reclaim that original name.
A movement to change the name has been launched by two Cherokee women, Lavita Hill and Mary “Missy” Crowe. The Tribal Council of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) lent its support to this movement when they approved unanimously a resolution on July 14 calling for the change.
Hill and Crowe are sponsoring a petition on Change.org (Petition · Restore “Kuwahi” to mountain presently known as Clingmans Dome · Change.org Sign it today to support the effort.
Since the One Feather reported on the movement in June, many other news media outlets have followed suit. Comments on Facebook shares of these articles and reports have been interesting, amusing, and some have just been overtly racist.
WBIR Channel 10 in Knoxville did a report, and the Facebook post on their share of the report garnered over 1,300 comments. Reading through that thread was a roller coaster ride. While many people did come out in support of the name change, there were definitely a few vocal ones against the idea.
Some argued that it would be changing history.
Changing history occurred when the area was named Clingman’s Dome in the first place.
Some argued the old ‘aren’t there more important issues?’
Sure, and individual American Indians and tribal governments are working on those as well. This is a singular issue that just happens to be getting a lot of attention at the moment. Work is being done in Indian Country every day on a multitude of issues because, you know what, Indians can multi-task.
Following the passage of the legislation, Hill told the One Feather, “Here’s our chance to honor our ancestors. Maybe we can’t take the land back, but we’re going to put the language out there and we’re going to put education out there and more people are going to know that this was Cherokee homeland. Let’s honor them. Let’s give them this name. Let’s respect them in that regard.”
That site has been special to Cherokee people for a long time. In an article for the Oklahoma Historical Society, Josh Clough wrote, “Although the UKB (United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians) received congressional recognition in 1946 and ratified its constitution, bylaws, and corporate charter in 1950, its origins are considerably older. Keetoowah people believe that ‘Kituwah’ or ‘Keetoowah’ is the true name of the Cherokee people given to them by the Creator atop a mountain peak known as Kuwahi.”
Crowe has spoken of this history and told the One Feather, “It’s an important and significant history place for our people. We will recognize it today. When we look at the importance of these areas, it’s spiritual.”
While there may still be some debate among our people on the correct Cherokee language for “mulberry place”, the truth is that the land was named by the Cherokee long before any European came along to rename it. So, essentially, we are not asking for a renaming. Just correct it to the name the Cherokee people gave it in the first place.
In the end, this is a simple fix, and we hope that the U.S. Board on Geographic Names will make the right decision.