The flag of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation was unveiled in the Plemmons Student Union on Dec. 6. The flag was hung above the Looking Glass Gallery to recognize Appalachian’s five-year partnership with Cherokee High School through the Gadugi Initiative.
Appalachian State students and Cherokee High School students gathered in the Summit Trail Solarium for the ceremony acknowledging the historical event. Former Miss Cherokee and Gadugi Scholar Taran Swimmer and Junior Miss Cherokee Dvdaya Swimmer began the ceremony by singing the Cherokee National Anthem.
Allen Bryant, associate professor of Education and director of the Gadugi Initiative spoke about the impact and origins of the Gadugi, the communal labor organization of the Cherokee people. Bryant said that he wanted the flag in the union to symbolize the Gadugi value of charity and working together.
“Over the last five years, our two communities [Cherokee High School and Appalachian State University] have challenged each other, strengthened each other and inspired each other,” Bryant said. “Together we have formed a partnership that has allowed us to learn from one another by talking to one another.”
Cherokee High School Coach Heath Roberts is the assistant director of the Gadugi Initiative. Roberts said that when the Gadugi committee decided to ask for the flag to be put up in the union this fall, they were fully prepared to have to make a case for the flag.
“As soon as [the flag] was mentioned, everyone said ‘sure,’” Roberts said. “It was really, really awesome, so we almost didn’t know how to react to the ‘yes.’”
The Gadugi Initiative is designed to encourage American Indian students at Cherokee High School to become leaders and educators while learning more about their history. The Gadugi program began when Bryant began teaching the course called History of Cherokee Education. Soon after the initiative began, Cherokee High School began offering the course Cherokee Cultural Leadership. Both courses offer three college credit hours upon their completion.
Roberts helps teach the Cherokee Cultural Leadership course. He said that in the course, he emphasizes teaching students about Cherokee leaders after the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the Trail of Tears.
“A lot of our students don’t know much of our history to begin with,” Roberts said. “But they also don’t realize that we have a history that is just as worthy of being told.”
Through the Cherokee Cultural Leadership course, Gadugi scholars have made a poster of chiefs of the Cherokee nation, as well as videos that are reenactments of significant historical movements for the Cherokee people, such as their fight for the right to vote in North Carolina.
Along with teaching the students about their history, the Gadugi Initiative gives students the opportunity to have a place at Appalachian as they attend lectures, film series and football games. Roberts said he felt that the tie to Appalachian was beneficial to the Gadugi scholars.
“The students feel like they’re at home here,” Roberts said. “If a program like this had been around while I was in school, I would have found Appalachian a lot sooner.”
Gadugi scholar and junior at Cherokee High School Marianna Hornbuckle hopes to attend Appalachian after she graduates in two years, and said she looks forward to being able to walk past the flag every day in the student union.
“It’s such an honor to have it hanging here and to be able to be here,” Hornbuckle said. “I’m so happy that our culture is finally being recognized.”
To learn more about the Gadugi Initiative, visit ci.appstate.edu/cherokee-partnership.
Story by Nora Smith, Graphics Editor
Featured Image: Former Gadugi Scholar and Miss Cherokee Taran Swimmer and Junior Miss Cherokee Dvdaya Swimmer open the ceremony with the Cherokee National Anthem. The flag of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation was hung in the student union on Dec. 6.