$500K grant aims to preserve Cherokee ecological knowledge

BY STAFF REPORTS
02/27/2018 10:00 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Pat Gwin, Cherokee Nation Environmental Resources senior director, looks at a Georgia candy roaster squash at the tribe’s heirloom garden in Tahlequah. A National Science Foundation grant worth nearly $500,000 will be used to preserve the Cherokee culture through the establishment of a mentor program for young CN citizens. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – A nearly $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation aims to preserve the Cherokee culture through the establishment of a mentor program for young Cherokee Nation citizens.

The program will match young Cherokees from northeastern Oklahoma with elders in the tribe’s Medicine Keepers to learn about and sustain traditional Cherokee life ways by working in the tribe’s heirloom garden, learning the language and participating in field botany exercises.

Clint Carroll, a CN citizen and University of Colorado Boulder professor, was recently awarded the five-year grant. He is working with Pat Gwin, senior director of CN Environmental Resources, to administer a three-year program in the CN.

“Dr. Carroll’s National Science Foundation project promises to be a unique opportunity for Cherokee students to be taught traditional ecological knowledge in a manner and setting as would have been the case centuries ago,” Gwin said.

The Cherokee Environmental Leadership Program works directly with the CN Medicine Keepers to educate five Cherokee students about the Cherokee culture, the Cherokee language and local environmental issues. The Medicine Keepers are a group of 12 fluent Cherokee speakers whose mission is to preserve the traditional language, culture and natural resources of the tribe.

“The project seeks to revitalize the Cherokee language and traditional knowledge and to inform tribal land conservation policy, which we hope will promote Cherokee cultural resilience and overall well-being,” Carroll said.

Carroll has worked closely with the Medicine Keepers since its inception in 2008.

Participants will be expected to dedicate 10 hours per week to the project, working in the CN heirloom garden, taking Cherokee language courses and meeting regularly with the Medicine Keepers.

Students who live in northeastern Oklahoma and are citizens of the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes are eligible to apply. Applications must be submitted by March 16. To apply, visit http://knowingtheland.edublogs.org/apply/.

For more information, visit http://knowingtheland.edublogs.org.

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