North Carolina Students Study Cherokee Culture

Tuesday, May 26th 2009, 4:57 pm
By: News On 6

By Craig Day, The News On 6

TAHLEQUAH, OK -- While school is wrapping up for most students, another group is just beginning to hit the books.  Students from the University of North Carolina are in Tahlequah taking a crash course to learn about the Cherokee Nation.

All of the students will spend a lot of time in the classroom over the next three weeks.  They're taking part in a unique educational opportunity.    

The dozen students from the University of North Carolina are taking a crash course about the Cherokee Nation.

"When this came up, I get to go somewhere in the United States I've never been, and learn about people I've never really met.  I just thought it would be a great opportunity that I probably never would get otherwise," said UNC student Casey Arrowood.

The tribal studies program is a partnership between the Chapel Hill, North Carolina School and Northeastern in Tahlequah.  The students will learn about Cherokee history and culture, including intensive Cherokee language studies.

"I think they are going to get really a crash course that is inestimatable in terms of its value for them.  It's going to be a life changing experience for many of them," said UNC Assistant Professor Tol Foster.

Ben Booker is a history major at UNC.  He's looking forward to learning more.

"Acquiring a knowledge of a culture that has been so ignored and put down throughout history," said UNC student Ben Booker.

The head of the program says North Carolina selected NSU as a partner because Northeastern has the most advanced program of Cherokee studies in the world.

"I think in many ways, for American Indians, Oklahoma is the center of the universe.  We have people removed here, not just from the South, but there were 67 tribal nations that were moved to Oklahoma, so that's like a little United Nations here," said UNC Assistant Professor Tol Foster.

Organizers hope to build an ongoing relationship with NSU and the Cherokee Nation and that the program could develop into further heritage based tourism and studies.

In addition to the classroom work, the UNC students will also play stickball and go to a Cherokee tribal stomp dance while they're here.  They've already been to the Cherokee Heritage Center.