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Upcoming Events

 Sept. 26 Peace Tree Ceremony & Public Lecture: moved to rain location, GLUCK THEATER, WVU Mountainlair

Mr. Jamie Jacobs, Turtle Clan, Tonawanda Seneca, a descendant of historic Seneca leaders, serves his community as a ceremonial custodian, language instructor at Tonawanda Nation School, and cultural educator. In addition, he works for the Rochester (New York) Museum and Science Center, Rock Foundation. His numerous efforts support the preservation of Seneca culture, language, and traditions.
  Jamie Jacobs peace tree 2019

Mr. Jacobs will preside at the 2019 annual WVU Peace Tree Ceremony Thursday, Sept. 26 at 11:30 a.m., telling the story of the coming of the Peacemaker, who brought about the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy.

The Peace Tree is located between Martin Hall & E. Moore Hall. Rain location: Gluck Theater, Mountainlair Student Union.

Mr. Jacobs’s public lecture, ”The Seneca and the Great Law of Peace" is at 7:00 p.m. in the Gluck Theater, Mountainlair Student Union. A welcome reception begins in the theater foyer at 6:30pm.

Both events are free and open to the public. 

Blaine Tallchief 2019 peace tree

Mr. Blaine Tallchief, Seneca Faithkeeper and member of both the Newtown and Coldspring Longhouse, will perform traditional Seneca music and offer an invocation as part of the Peace Tree ceremony and public lecture. Originally from the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation, Mr. Tallchief and his family live on the Allegany reservation.

Canaan red tailed hawk

“Canaan,” a red-tailed hawk, will be presented courtesy of the the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia.

(READ about the Peace Tree tradition below)

Overview of Programs and Events

Peace Tree Ceremony

A highlight of the academic year is the annual Peace Tree Ceremony. The university community welcomes Morgantown-area residents and members of the local Native American communities to campus to join in this important tradition. 

About the Peace Tree

By Anna M. Schein, WVU Librarian, author and Native American Studies Committee Member

     The WVU Peace Tree was planted on September 12, 1992 to commemorate the University's commitment to the rediscovery of America's Indian heritage. Chief Leon Shenandoah, Tadodaho (Presiding Moderator) of the Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy, and Chippewa Chief Robert TallTree, also a musician, artisan and storyteller, were invited to plant and bless the tree.  On August 8, 1996, vandals cut down the Peace Tree.  A second Peace Tree, which still stands today, was planted by Mohawk Chief Jake Swamp on October 19, 1996.

     According to Haudenosaunee oral tradition, the Creator sent a Peacemaker to unite the warring Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Mohawk and Onondaga Nations by planting the original Tree of Peace at Onondaga ca. 1000 A.D.  The Tree marked the formation of the Haudenosaunee Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy.

     As told by Chief Jake Swamp, when the Tree was planted, the Peacemaker told the first leaders:

“This will be the symbol that we will use.

The white pine

will be the symbol of peace.

Now the greenery of this tree

will represent the peace you have agreed to.”


“Every time you look at this tree

and its greenery,

you will be reminded of this peace you agreed to

because this tree

never changes color the year round,

it’s always green,

so shall be your peace.”

To learn more about the meaning and history of the Peace Tree, read Paul Wallace’s White Roots of Peace (Clear Light Publishing, April 1994).

Elder-in-Residence Program

An important part of WVU’s Native American Studies Program is the tradition of bringing distinguished Native American leaders to campus to lecture and interact with our students and fellow community members (see “Legacy of Distinction”). Many of these honorable guests have been involved in our Peace Tree ceremonies. However, in the past several years, with generous support from the Carolyn Reyer Endowment for Native American Studies, the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, and others, a formalized Elder-in-Residence program has flourished through the participation of these outstanding individuals:

2017 David Archambault, II, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman

2016 Ada Deer (Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin), former Assistant Secretary of the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, former Menominee Chair, social worker, activist

2015 Charlie Soap (Cherokee Nation) filmmaker, photographer, community organizer

2014 (Writer-in-Residence) Diane Glancy, author, filmmaker, playright

2013 Walter Echo-Hawk (Pawnee), tribal Supreme Court Judge, Native American Rights Attorney, and author of In the Courts of the Conqueror: The Ten Worst Indian Law Cases Ever Decided, and In the Light of Justice: The Rise of Human Rights in Native America and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

2011 Gerard Baker (Mandan, Hidatsa), his lecture, “From Log House to Rushmore,” told story of his rise through the ranks of the National Parks Service and his role as Superintendent of Mt. Rushmore National Monument, as well as Little Bighorn National Battlefield and other important Native American historic sites.

2010 Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne, Hodulgee Muscogee), Native Rights Advocate, writer, poet, artist and curator…Director of the Morningstar Institute.

2009 Leader-in-Residence Tex Hall (Mandan, Hidatsa), former president of the National Congress of American Indians, served multiple terms as Chair of the Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara Nation.

2008 Leslie Marmom Silko (Laguna Pueblo), award-winning author of such works as The Man to Send Rain Clouds, Laguna Woman, Ceremony, Almanac of the Dead, Gardens in the Dunes, Ocean Story _(a novella)and her memoir, The Turquoise Ledge._

2007 John EchoHawk (Pawnee), Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund, addressed the Cobell case and other important legal issues facing Native Americans.

2006 Dr. Henrietta Mann, Ph.D. ( Cheyenne), public lecture, “Is Nothing Sacred? Native American Views on Reverence and Connection”

2005 Chief Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan, Onondaga Nation, Haudenosaunee, Six Nations – Iroquois Confederacy, public lecture, “Cowboys and Indians: Will it Ever End? Ask Mother Earth”

2004 LaDonna Harris, (Comanche), public lecture, “Indigeneity: Indigenous Leadership in the Face of Global Change”

2003 Peterson Zah, former Chairman and Tribal President of the Navajo Nation, public lecture, “ Winds of Change in Indian Country”

2002 Angaangaq Lyberth, (Inuk), public lecture, “Melting the Ice in the Heart of Man”

Sycamore Circle Lecture Series

The Sycamore Circle series of lectures was initiated in the Spring of 2004. The series consists of informal lectures and discussions meant to highlight and encourage the sharing of research on wide-ranging Native American topics. The Circles are conducted by faculty and students (from WVU and from other campuses) and by scholars and professionals serving in relevant fields. The name of the Series draws upon the historic sycamores that are located near our Peace Tree on the downtown campus. In the words of Dr. Ellesa Clay High, who originated the series, “Historically in Appalachia, huge, old, hollow sycamores provided shelter for both Native and settler alike. And in the tradition of at least one Eastern Woodland tribe, the Cherokee, fire first came to the earth as lightning which established flames inside the bottom of a hollow sycamore. It is in a spirit of illumination that these presentations are offered. ”

Past Sycamore Circle presentations:

Brazilian scholar Dr. Jane Brodbeck shared her research on Native American film maker Sherman Alexi and also gave comparisons between the struggles of Brazil’s indigenous peoples and those of Native peoples in the U.S.

Counseling psychologist Dr. Shari Robinson discussed her research findings, including, “...Native Americans’ anxiety about the loss of culture contributes uniquely to their stress, which in turn impacts psychological distress.”

Award-winning anthropologist Darla Spencer presented, “120 Years Later: A New Look at the Mound Complex of the Kanawha Valley.”

Dr. R. Turner Goins, Associate Director for Research at the WVU Center on Aging, delivered an international videoconference on the topic, “Health and Long-term Care Needs of American Indian and Alaska Native Elders.”

Joe Candillo (Pascua Yaqui), a cultural program coordinator, delivered an interactive, hands-on lecture on “The Enchanted Yoeme Indians of Prehistory and Today.”

Jane Dailey, a member of Mother Earth Beat Drum, discussed changing attitudes regarding the emergence of all-women Native drums and her participation in “Balancing the Sacred Hoop,” a 2005 summer drum feast in California. Jane’s presentation was titled, “The Heartbeat of Mother Earth: Native American Women on the Drum.”

Joshua Masse, a WVU doctoral student in clinical child psychology, shared his survey research findings in a presentation titled, “Native American Perspectives on Parenting.”

NAS Research Colloquium

Students are encouraged to explore their academic subjects in-depth and then share their findings with the university community. The Native American Studies program sponsors undergraduate research colloquia, encouraging our emerging scholars to employ critical thinking and creative approaches to learning. These valuable opportunities allow faculty to mentor promising students and challenge them to consider post-baccalaureate study.

In addition, NAS faculty and other committee members are invited to share their research and creative projects with a community audience.

West Virginia Native American heritage Series

The annual West Virginia Native American Heritage presentation is rooted in WVU’s Mountaineer Week festivities, which take place in November, Native American Heritage Month. The series was established by former NAS Coordinator Dr. Ellesa Clay High.

Several years ago Dr. High observed that Native people and representations of Native culture seemed virtually absent in the typical Mountaineer Week line-up and decided to work to change that. She developed a literary performance program called “Heart Medicine” with colleagues Joann Dadisman and Dr. Anna Elfenbein of the WVU English Department. Mountaineer Week coordinator Sonja Wilson applauded this special program and encouraged Dr. High to continue to add Native programming to Mountaineer Week each year.

Dr. High conducted research throughout the region during her sabbatical leave in 2002-2003. Her work with Native people in West Virginia, and the enormous amount and variety of material she collected, highlighted the many resources available to help convey the Native heritage of West Virginia. Using her own personal contribution as seed money, she was then able to solicit additional funding to support an ongoing series. The Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, the Reyer Endowment for Native American Studies, Mountaineer Week, the West Virginia Humanities Council, and others have generously helped sponsor the various presentations over the years.

If you’d like to help support the West Virginia Native American Heritage Series, consider making a personal contribution. Click here for more information about giving opportunities.

Past presentations have included:

2003 The Turtle Island Band (contemporary Native American music performance, and storytelling)

2004 Documentary filmmaker Steven Shaffer (discussing his film on the petroglyphs of our region, “Written in Stone: The Prehistoric Native American Rock Art of the Ohio River Valley”)

2005 Dan Cutler as Chief Logan of the Cayugas (History Alive! Presentation)

2006 Doug Wood as Man Killer Ostenaco (Cherokee) (History Alive! Presentation—set for Nov. 6, 2006, look for details on our web calendar)