Skip to main content

Upcoming Events

August  5 & 6, 2021: American Indian Boarding Schools Archives Workshop





WVU’s Native American Studies Program & University Libraries are offering an archives workshop for teachers, librarians, and researchers August 5-6, 2021 on the downtown WVU campus. The workshop aims to improve awareness of historic American Indian boarding schools, their role in the U.S. government’s numerous Indian assimilation policies, and the schools’ complex legacies within present-day American Indian tribes and families. Attendees will hear from a wide range of presenters and get hands-on instruction in researching digitally archived primary sources. Seating is limited and advanced registration is required.

NAS Program Coordinator Bonnie Brown will co-direct the workshop with WVU cultural studies librarian Beth Toren, who will lead a session highlighting digitized archives and primary source sets for teaching and research in Native American Studies.

                Students on the Carlisle campus, c. 1885

                          Students at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School campus, c. 1885 

The workshop, in the planning stages since 2020, comes at a time of increased international attention on historic mistreatment of Indigenous boarding school students. Brown pointed out that U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Debra Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), the first Native American to hold a presidential cabinet position, just announced a federal initiative to address the harmful intergenerational impact of these residential schools. “We must uncover the truth about the loss of human life and the lasting consequences of the schools,” said the Secretary. Brown indicated Haaland’s announcement coincides with research at Canadian school grounds revealing more than a thousand unmarked graves of Indigenous children. The remains of some of the nearly 200 students who died more than a century ago at the Carlisle (PA) Indian Industrial School are going home to their tribal nations this summer. This formal repatriation process, regarded as both a sovereign right and sacred duty, has been ongoing at Carlisle for the past several years. 

                  Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Sandra Cianciulli

U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) and Sandra Cianciulli (Oglala Lakota).

Workshop presenter Sandra Cianciulli (Oglala Lakota), is a Native rights advocate whose ancestors were among the first students to attend the Carlisle School. She is president of the Board of Directors of the Carlisle Indian School Project, which is dedicated to public education. Cianciulli’s remarks will focus on the CISP, “Our children were treated poorly 150 years ago because they had no political power. The horrific evidence of those failed policies is a constant reminder that we are still in a fight now.”

"Most Americans know of the incredible athleticism of Carlisle's most famous athlete, Jim Thorpe, but few know of the history and conditions under which American Indians were brought to and were treated in that institution and the others that sprang up across the country and provided the model for those in Canada, as well. Recently we have seen horrific stories from Canada as they have discovered approximately one thousand children buried in unmarked graves at only two of hundreds of schools. The phrase that resonated as the foundation of Carlisle was, "Kill the Indian, save the man."  The belief was that not allowing the Indian children to speak their languages, practice their religions, participate in their cultures, or learn their history would help them be more successful. They were trained as blue-collar or no collar workers. The dichotomy of America's policy was ironically evident in WWII as my mother was being punished for speaking her Oneida language at Flandreau South Dakota (at a clone of the Carlisle school) at the same time that the U.S. was asking Navajo and other tribes to use their languages to provide codes that were never broken by the Nazis. Many tribes today are doing what they can to preserve or restore what they have lost. They will use the skills they have learned in those schools and blend them with their experience and cultural knowledge. They will survive and succeed on this, their traditional land," said CISP Board Member and award-winning Native American leader William Gollnick (Oneida Nation), WVU's 2019 Native American Studies Elder-in-Residence.

                 William Gollnick (Oneida Nation)

            William Gollnick (Oneida Nation)

Presenter Boe Nakakakena Harris (Turtle Mountain Chippewa), is the daughter of a boarding school attendee who said her family suffered as a result of her father’s school-related trauma, “I can attest to the enduring impact of his experiences--I’m just one voice sharing stories from among generations of survivors.” Both presenters are longtime associates of the NAS Program who have guest-lectured and consulted over the years.

Additional presenters include experts from Dickinson College’s Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center, home to thousands of digitized CIS records. The Center offers opportunities to develop teaching and learning materials as well as original scholarly and popular works. Susan Rose, Dickinson College Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology and Director of the Mosaic Programs, James Gerencser of Dickinson College’s Waidner-Spahr Library - Archives & Special Collections, and Barbara Landis, Cumberland County (PA) Historical Society - Archives and Library Specialist will lead workshop sessions. As Gerencser explained, "The Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center aims to connect the present to the past by making it easier for living descendants to learn more about the experiences of their ancestors who attended the school, and by providing a comprehensive collection of primary sources to support teaching and scholarship."

WVU Professor of English Cari Carpenter, a member of the NAS Program Committee who developed a course on Carlisle School Legacies, will discuss teaching about Carlisle and other boarding schools, especially within the current political context. She will share course materials, including effective literature, exercises, pedagogical resources, and information about class visits to Carlisle.

Rare Books and Printed Resources Curator Stewart Plein and her colleagues at the West Virginia and Regional History Center will offer tours and display relevant items from the Collection. NAS 2021 Outstanding Senior and student historian Riley Bowers will serve as a workshop assistant.

Presentation titles include: “Piecing Together the Stories of Carlisle Indian: Oral History and Digital Archives;” "Navigating and Understanding the Documentation of the Carlisle Indian School and the Bureau of Indian Affairs;" "Howard Gansworth's 'My First Days at Carlisle,' an account of a Carlisle student's memoir;” “Reflections from the Daughter of a Boarding School Student: journey to truth, understanding, and healing;” and "Lost Indian Treasure - Our Side of History."

Screenings and discussion of two documentary films, “The Lost Ones” and “The Thick Dark Fog” are also planned.

Registration for the two-day workshop will be available at  Per WVU policy, unvaccinated people are expected to wear a mask inside all University facilities, as well as outdoors when they are around other people. Once registered, participants will receive information on local discounted lodging, parking costs, a map of activities locations, and library access.

The workshop is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Humanities Council, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations do not necessarily represent those of the West Virginia Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.


2021 Peace Tree

(event details will be shared as they are finalized)

WVU programming involving guest of honor MERV TANO, J.D. was been postponed from 2020 due to the covid-19 pandemic.

Merv Tano, President of the International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management
Merv Tano, President, International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management
and adjunct faculty, Haskell Indian Nations University

The Peace Tree is located between Martin Hall & E. Moore Hall. The annual Peace Tree events are free and open to the public.

April, 2022 Join us in welcoming U.S. Poet Laureate JOY HARJO (Muscogee Creek Nation) ...details forthcoming

 Joy Harjo US Poet Laureate

Joy Harjo, US Poet Laureate

Sept. 26, 2019 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)