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WVU Native American Studies Program annual Peace Tree Ceremony returns with a hybrid celebration

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Native American Studies Program at West Virginia University will hold its annual Peace Tree Ceremony Nov. 2, at 1 p.m. with guest of honor Mervyn L. Tano, an attorney who for the past 25 years has served as president of the International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management, a law and policy research institution based in Denver. 

 This year’s event will be hybrid, available to a virtual audience, as well as reserved on-campus seating. This is the 29th anniversary of the planting of WVU’s first peace tree by Chief Leon Shenandoah, Tadodaho of the Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy and Chippewa Chief Robert TallTree.

 “Every year, the WVU Peace Tree ceremony offers the community a time to reflect on the lessons of the Peacemaker, highlighting the importance of unity and agreeing we are stronger together,” said Bonnie Brown, coordinator of the Native American Studies Program. “The sovereign nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy demonstrate that it’s possible to coexist with mutual respect and inclusive dialogue.”

 The Peace Tree tradition comes from Haudenosaunee (Iroquoian) history. According to Haudenosaunee oral tradition, the creator sent the Peacemaker to unite the warring Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk nations by planting the original white pine Tree of Peace at Onondaga an estimated 1,000 years ago. The tree symbolizes the formation of the original Haudenosaunee Five Nations Confederacy (later Six Nations, with the addition of the Tuscarora).

The ceremony will include traditional hand drum songs and a symbolic burying of the weapons of war. A raptor from the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia will be presented to symbolize the eagle the Peacemaker placed as a sentry at the top of the original tree at Onondaga. In addition, all those attending in person will be invited to add a prayer tie, with any good intention they choose, on the Peace Tree, which is located between Martin and E. Moore Halls on the downtown campus.

Tano has worked with Indian tribes and organizations for more than 40 years, including as director of planning and budget at the Administration for Native Americans and as general counsel and director of environmental programs at the Council of Energy Resource Tribes. He is adjunct faculty at Haskell Indian Nations University and has also written and taught extensively on Indigenous peoples’ law and policy issues related to climate, risk, cultural resources, heritage management, environmental justice, food and agriculture, and science and technology policy.

The Peace Tree ceremony, is the first of several Native American Studies events in commemoration of Native American Heritage Month. All events are free and open to the public and event registration is available at They are made possible by the Native American Studies Program with support from WVU’s Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and the Eberly College of Arts & Sciences’ Department of Public Administration, Leadership Studies Program, Public History Program, and Department of Geology & Geography

CONTACT: Jessica McGee
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences

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