Students at Georgia Highlands College and supporters of the Chieftains Museum/Major Ridge Home got a lesson in land sovereignty and healing from native Cherokee Mary Crowe, a representative to the Indigenous Environmental Network .

In their view supreme sovereignty over the land comes from God and flows through the government.

“We are possessory holders, there is only one deed to our land that is held in trust by the United States government,” Crowe said. “We’re not land owners, but each community has respect for one another and those possessory holders are sacred.”

“Some of these mountain ranges have never had a human footprint on them, they are very sacred, they are very spiritual to us here,” Crow said. “These mountains sustain and these mountains protect us.”

During the pandemic dependence of the Cherokee in North Carolina on their land became even greater, she said. So as a sovereign entity, the Cherokee opted to shut down the Qualla Boundary for a time.

There is only one grocery store on their land and that forced many of the them to forage through their sovereign lands for food like ramps, sochan, branch lettuce and berries during the spring. In the fall, they foraged for ginseng, chestnuts, hickory nuts and acorns.

“We had to do what we had to do to protect our people,” Crowe said. “This is what we still do today when we talk about the land and sustaining ourselves.”

Her family resorted to gardening on her mother’s land, corn, beans and squash — known as the Three Sisters by the Cherokee.

Over the years, the Cherokee have had to assimilate into white culture and that is accomplished through a variety of healing methods.

“We go through something called generational trauma. We also go through something called historic trauma,” Crowe said. Understanding the sovereignty of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee, living on the land and by the land, helps tremendously.

Healing is an individual process, she said, and each individual has to start with themselves.

Crowe’s presentation was part of a Speaker Series currently sponsored by Georgia Highlands College through the Department of Education/ Psychology/Criminal Justice/Political Science led by J. Sean Callahan.

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