The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council passed a resolution on Thursday supporting changing the name of Clingmans Dome, the highest peak in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The mountain was originally known by the Cherokee as “Kuwahi,” which translates to “mulberry place.” Long before the mountain on the North Carolina-Tennessee border became a National Park attraction, Cherokee tribal medicine men would go up the mountain to pray for guidance and would share their visions with the rest of the community.
The tribe’s treasury specialist, Lavita Hill, along with her friend and fellow activist Mary Crowe, spent the past month preparing the proposal for the name change to be approved by the tribal government.
Before the Cherokees were forcibly relocated in 1838 to Oklahoma on what is now known as the Trail of Tears, they lived for hundreds of years in present-day Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina.
“It’s not like we just occupied the land; we lived on the land. Our own government, towns, language, our own newspaper — we were thriving communities. Then, due to forced removal, we were forced out of our homelands,” Hill said. “We’ve obviously been through a lot of heartache and hurt. What we are trying to put out there now is how Cherokee names are important, how that plays into our culture and history and keeping us alive.”
Hill added that the next step is to submit paperwork to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names for consideration. She hopes to have this done by the end of the year, saying, “This was the starting point. We’ve just now kicked off the work.”