BOONE, N.C.—The flag of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee now hangs in a place of prominence alongside the American, Chinese and Israeli national flags — and a variety of others — in Plemmons Student Union (PSU) on Appalachian State University’s campus.
Around 250 members of the Appalachian, Boone and Cherokee Indian communities gathered for the historic flag installation ceremony in the solarium in PSU Wednesday morning, Dec. 6. More than 100 additional virtual attendees watched the ceremony via livestream, many from the Qualla Boundary — land owned by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee.
The placement of the flag of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee in its permanent home is “public recognition of the university’s five-year partnership with Cherokee High School, as well as an acknowledgment of the cultural heritage and presence of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee in this part of the state,” Chancellor Sheri Everts remarked during the ceremony.
For the last five years, students at the school, which is on the Qualla Boundary, have had the opportunity to participate in the Gadugi Program through Appalachian’s Reich College of Education. Led by Dr. Allen Bryant, associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, the program's goals include student recruitment and teacher education at the high school, with the ultimate goal of working together — the meaning of Gadugi in Cherokee — to preserve Cherokee culture.
Through Gadugi, the students have the opportunity to earn college credits for an elective course offered by Appalachian. Classes are taught on site at the high school and through Skype and Google Hangouts by Bryant and Heath Robertson ’05, a Reich College of Education alumnus, who gives up his daily planning period at CHS to teach the class.
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Darrell Kruger describes the Gadugi program as “an important partnership between Appalachian and the Cherokee High School that has evolved over almost 10 years of engagement. Dr. Bryant’s leadership in conjunction with Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Willie Fleming is building a modest student pipeline between Cherokee and Boone.
“The permanent display of the flag of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee is both symbolic and substantive. This act recognizes the historical presence of the Cherokee in this part of Western North Carolina and the Gadugi project connects the past with the present, specifically around Cherokee educational folklore and personalities.”
Opening the ceremony, Taran Swimmer, a Gadugi scholar from Cherokee, and her young cousin DvDaya Swimmer, wearing her Junior Miss Cherokee sash atop her native dress, sang the Cherokee national anthem. Bryant followed with words about the program, the importance of the flag’s installation and the meaning of Gadugi.
In his remarks, Bryant said Gadugi were the labor organization of the Cherokee nation. “Their function within society … was to make sure the needs of all the people were met … to ensure that the hungry were fed, the homeless were housed and the orphan found family.” They were successful, he said, because the Cherokee people “had made an unqualified commitment to equality and to human dignity. I want this flag to symbolize Gadugi. Not the program, but the ethic. Programs come and go, but values are eternal.”
Five students enrolled in the Gadugi Program attended the ceremony, along with several graduates of the program and a host of Cherokee family and supporters.
Samuel Esquivel, a senior at the high school, said the program encourages students to enroll at Appalachian. “Part of the reason I want to come to App State is because it’s got a strong Cherokee presence. They teach Cherokee as a class and they’re putting our flag in here. Cherokee as a culture and a people is getting recognition here, and that is very important.”
Marianna Hornbuckle, a junior at CHS, concurred: “Our culture is important to us and being educated about it is really important.”
In a brief exchange at the reception after the ceremony, one of the attending Cherokee, Mary Crowe, said her two older children “were in the (Gadugi) program. My son went here, to Appalachian, and my daughter is a freshman at UC Berkley. App State and the agreement with Cherokee High School has really given our students a head start. I’m grateful for that. My children are examples that it works.”
Another of the seniors in the program, Robin Reed, said she hopes to study nursing and then return to the Qualla Boundary to work. Riley Crowe, also a senior, said she has applied to Duke University and to Appalachian. “I want to study linguistics and earn a law degree.”
“Helping my people,” she replied.
About Appalachian State University
Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian enrolls about 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.