The Native American Studies program at West Virginia University will host the Annual Peace Tree Ceremony on Tuesday, Oct. 20, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. outside E. Moore Hall with special guest Russell Logan Sharp, former chief of the Lower Eastern Ohio Mekoce Shawnee and a Native American rights activist.
Sharp will preside over the ceremony and present a lecture, titled “The Struggle of Non-federally Recognized Natives,” that same day at 5:30 p.m. in Clark Hall Room 112. He will also visit Native American Studies classes while on campus.
The Peace Tree Ceremony and lecture will be held as part of WVU’s Diversity Week. The ceremony marks the anniversary of Columbus’s landing in the Americas and commemorates the University’s commitment to the rediscovery of America’s Indian heritage. It will feature Native American drumming and an appearance by “Thunder,” a bald eagle from the West Virginia Raptor Rehabilitation Center.
The events are free and open to the public. The rain location for the ceremony will be held at the Mountainlair Vandalia Lounge.
A native of Daton, Ohio, Sharp is the seventh great grandchild of Spemica Lawba (Johnny Logan), who was grandson to Moluntha, a spiritual leader of the Shawnee, and nephew of Tecumseh, leader of the Shawnee and a large tribal confederacy. He grew up learning the spiritual ways and traditions of the Shawnee tribe from his grandmother, family members and teachers.
For 15 years, Sharp served as chief of the Lower Eastern Ohio Mekoce Shawnee, a federally non-recognized tribe with communities in both Ohio and West Virginia. Since retiring, he has acted as a spiritual and ceremonial leader of the tribe, and given numerous talks to organizations and schools educating others on issues relevant to Native Americans.
“I’ve spent all of my life learning and living the Shawnee way. I follow the ways of my people as best as I can,” said Sharp, who explained that can often be difficult when working outside the tribe like he did as an electrician and truck driver for many years. “Nevertheless, I found the time to be part of Native movements and protests to secure a better life and better treatment of Native people.”
Prior to becoming a Shawnee chief, Sharp served the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, and later became active in the struggles for recognition of Native American rights and treaties at the national level during the 1970s. He participated in the American Indian Movement (AIM) during the Bureau of Indian Affairs take-over in Washington, D.C., and the Long Walk.
For more information, contact Bonnie M. Brown, coordinator of the Native American Studies Program, at (304) 293-4626 or BonnieM.Brown@mail.wvu.edu.