Todd Martin (right), a WCU fine arts student who produced the new “wi” sculpture on campus, discusses the work’s creation with Richard Sneed, principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ historical and cultural connections with the land now home to Western Carolina University were commemorated Friday (Sept. 21) as representatives of the tribal and university communities gathered for the unveiling of a sculpture based on the Cherokee syllabary character “wi.”

The ceremony at the sculpture installation site in the courtyard adjacent to WCU’s Killian Building included remarks from Carol Burton, WCU acting provost, and Richard Sneed, principal chief of the Eastern Band. Brett Riggs, the university’s Sequoyah Distinguished Professor of Cherokee Studies, spoke about the history of the site, and the official unveiling was conducted by Todd Martin, a student in WCU’s fine arts program who created the sculpture in response to the university’s 2017-18 learning theme: “Cherokee: Community. Culture. Connections.”

An opening prayer was given in the Cherokee language and in English by Tom Belt, coordinator of WCU’s program in Cherokee language. Burton began the remarks by reminding those attending that “the heritage and tradition of a proud people permeates the very ground on which our university is built.”

The Cherokee syllabary character “wi” denotes a geographic location, and the installation site was once the center of a Cherokee village.

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Originally published Sept. 24, 2018.

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