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Native American Studies Program to host 30th Anniversary Peace Tree Ceremony with Guest of Honor Marie Watt

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The West Virginia University Native American Studies Program will hold its annual Peace Tree Ceremony Wednesday, September 21 at 12 p.m. at the WVU Peace Tree located between Martin and Elizabeth Moore Halls.

The ceremony is free and the public is invited to attend. In the event of rain, the ceremony will move indoors to the Gluck Theater in the Mountainlair.

Marie Watt, an American artist and citizen of the Seneca Nation with German-Scot ancestry, is the guest of honor. Watt is a nationally renowned contemporary artist whose work is collected by major institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. She is welcomed by the Native American Studies Program in collaboration with the Art Museum of WVU. Peace Tree sign in front of tree

This year’s ceremony marks the 30th 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.

John Block, a traditional singer from the Seneca Nation will participate in the ceremony. Katie Fallon, director of the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia, Inc., will present Canaan, a red-tailed hawk, to symbolize the eagle the Peacemaker placed as a sentry at the top of the original tree ca. 1,000 years ago. Guests will also be invited to add a prayer tie, with any good intention they choose, to the Peace Tree.

After the Peace Tree Ceremony, Watt will give a free public presentation at 5 p.m. in Bloch Hall at the Canady Creative Arts Center. Watt’s talk is titled, “A Shared Horizon (Western Door)”. The Seneca are the westernmost of the Six Nations, Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy and known as the “keeper of the western door.”

Watt’s evening talk is a hybrid event and will be available via livestream.

Watt will be visiting campus September 20–23 at the Art Museum of WVU and working with the WVU School of Art and Design on collaborative printmaking projects. Her exhibition,  Storywork: The Prints of Marie Watt,  from the collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his family foundation, is on display at the Museum through Dec. 11, 2022.

“Given the profound ways that artists’ works stimulate introspection and can spark dialogs that promote cross-cultural peace and understanding, we are truly honored to collaborate with the Art Museum to welcome Marie Watt and celebrate her incredible talent,” said  Bonnie Brown, coordinator of the Native American Studies Program.

Marie WattWatt’s interdisciplinary work draws from history, biography, Iroquois protofeminism and Indigenous teachings; in it, she explores the intersection of history, community and storytelling. Through collaborative actions, she instigates multigenerational and cross-disciplinary conversations that open ways for understanding connectedness to place, to one another and the universe.

Additional support for Watt’s visit comes from the Carolyn Reyer Visiting Lectureship Program for Native American Studies, the Judith Gold Stitzel Museum Education Fund, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences  and the  WVU Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

The Peace Tree tradition, per Haudenosaunee (Iroquoian) oral history, centers on the Creator sending the Peacemaker to unite the warring Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk nations. He planted the original white pine Tree of Peace at Onondaga to symbolize these Five Nations forming the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. It was later Six Nations, with the addition of the Tuscarora.

“The WVU Peace Tree ceremony provides an opportunity for the University, the local community, and individuals to commit to peacemaking and problem-solving,” said Brown.