This fall, on October 22, 2020, staffers from the Campaign for Southern Equality traveled to the Qualla Boundary of Cherokee, North Carolina to meet with members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Throughout a full day of programming, CSE staff members listened to powerful presentations from Indigenous people in Western North Carolina about what matters most to them.
We sat with Mary “Missy” Crowe, Elvia Walkingstick, Lisa Montelongo, Tyson Sampson, and Amy Walker. They are all members of the EBCI and leaders in their own respective paths as climate justice organizers, land and sovereignty protectors, food and plant medicine makers, and traditional artists.
Over the course of the day, as a part of our commitment to racial equity, CSE enthusiastically filmed segments of these conversations, and now, in honor of November’s Indigenous Heritage Month, we are excited to share these videos that amplify the experiences and voices of Indigenous people and the people of Western NC. These videos are only short snippets of the welcome, wisdom and community that was shared with us.
EBCI members shared information with us about the creation and history of the EBCI, tribal government and sovereignty, the arts and artists in Cherokee, and Kituah – the mother farm. We were privileged to do some work on the farm and eat a traditional meal made with ingredients from recent harvests. Our meal consisted of chestnut bread, bear meat ribs, skinned corn and walnuts, pumpkin squash, wishy mushrooms, ramps and potatoes, and more.
Now, we share these videos as a gift to members of the EBCI. We hope to amplify their voices, share their stories far and wide, and uplift that every day is Indigenous People’s Day. We are humbled and grateful to our hosts.
The October gathering, which followed social distancing guidelines to contend with the COVID-19 pandemic, was a follow-up to programming held earlier in the year with members of EBCI. In March of 2020, the Campaign for Southern Equality had planned to host an in-person panel discussion called “Indigenous Wisdom from the Mountains: LGBTQ Native Americans and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians,” but we were forced to postpone following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, we shifted the event to a virtual webinar, facilitated by Holiday Simmons, Director of Resilience and Healing at CSE, on April 1.
We used the opportunity to ask: How are people who are Indigenous, rural, and Southern faring throughout the early days of the pandemic? Holiday Simmons moderated and the panelists shared their thoughts, experiences, and practices on social, emotional, and resource management during this Coronavirus global pandemic. Click here to watch the panel discussion.