The Native American Studies Program at Eberly College of Arts and Sciences will host events on October 9 and 10 that will highlight Native Nations’ ancestral, cultural and historical connections to the land now known as West Virginia.
The annual Peace Tree Ceremony will be held Monday, October 9 in recognition of Indigenous Peoples Day. The event begins at 11:30 a.m. at the WVU Peace Tree, located between Martin and E. Moore Halls on WVU’s downtown campus. In the event of rain, the ceremony will move indoors to the Gluck Theater in the Mountainlair.
The ceremony is free and open to the public.
The Peace Tree, per Haudenosaunee (Iroquoian) oral history passed down for hundreds of years, 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. With the addition of the Tuscarora, it is now the Six Nations.
WVU’s first peace tree was planted on campus in 1992 by Chief Leon Shenandoah, Tadodaho of the Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy. This year, Tadodaho Sidney Hillwill preside. Other guests of honor include Haudenosaunee Faithkeeper Oren Lyons, Delaware Nation President Deborah Dotson, Delaware Tribe of Indians Chief Brad KillsCrow, Shawnee Tribe Chief Ben Barnes, Eastern Shawnee Tribe Chief Glenna Wallace, and Cherokee Nation history and preservation officer Catherine Foreman Gray.
The Peace Tree Ceremony will include traditional Native music by singer John Block (Seneca Nation) and flute player Boe Nakakakena Harris (Turtle Mountain Chippewa). Wendy Perrone, executive director of Three Rivers Avian Center in Hinton, West Virginia, will present Regis, a bald eagle, symbolizing the eagle sentry the Peacemaker placed atop the original Peace Tree.
Following the Peace Tree Ceremony, guests are invited to attend the evening keynote presentation, “Truth to Power: History from Indigenous Perspectives” by Traditional Faithkeeper Oren Lyons, Turtle Clan, Onondaga Nation, Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The presentation, a prelude to the next day’s forum, will take place from 6 – 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 9 at the Gluck Theatre in the WVU Mountainlair. Those unable to attend the presentation in person may register to receive a live stream link.
On Tuesday, October 10, the Native American Studies program will host an all-day public forum with keynote presentations by leaders from Delaware, Shawnee, Haudenosaunee and Cherokee Nations.
The forum, titled “This Land was Already Loved: Native Leaders Discuss their Nations’ Connection to Place” will take place from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. in the Mountainlair Blue Ballroom and will offer sessions throughout the day. Native Nation leaders will share important stories, history, perspectives and outlooks for the future.
“This historic gathering of Native leaders at WVU provides an unprecedented opportunity to learn firsthand about the history and culture of the first peoples to live in what is today called West Virginia, said NAS Program Coordinator Bonnie Brown. “Educators, scholars, cultural resource managers, curators and others who want culturally accurate information obtained from Indigenous experts will find this unique event especially valuable.”
The first forum session begins at 9 a.m. and runs until noon. It will include presentations from Delaware Nation President Deborah Dotson, Delaware Tribe of Indians Chief Brad KillsCrow, as well as Cherokee Nation history and preservation officer Catherine Foreman Gray.
A ticketed Lunch and Learn event will follow from noon until 1 p.m.
The afternoon session takes place from 1 – 4:15 p.m. and features Tadodaho Sidney Hill, Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy, Eastern Shawnee Tribe Chief Glenna Wallace and Shawnee Tribe Chief Ben Barnes.
Native Nation leaders will convene during the final session from 4:30 – 6 p.m. to discuss their outlooks for the future and to answer questions from the in-person and virtual audience.
All events are open to the public, but registration is required to attend the Oct. 9 keynote as well as the Oct. 10 forum and Lunch and Learn. A live stream link will be available to those who register to attend virtually.
The events are supported by the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, WVU Honors College, WVU Humanities Center, WVU Program for Leadership Studies, WVU Libraries, WVU Extension and the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex and the West Virginia Dept. of Arts, Culture History. Morgantown’s Community Coalition for Social Justice, the West Virginia Conference of the United United Methodist Church Committee on Native American Ministries and the Monongalia Friends Meeting (Quakers) have also contributed support.
This project is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Humanities Council, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations do not necessarily represent those of the West Virginia Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.
More information and updates can be found at nas.wvu.edu/fall-2023-forum.