About Kuwohi effort

The issue: The Tribal Council of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have unanimously supported a resolution to restore the name Kuwohi to the mountain presently known as Clingmans Dome. We have the opportunity to help the Eastern Band of the Cherokee by supporting this effort. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names has the authority to change the name of this mountain.

Why now: The United States Department of the Interior under the leadership of Secretary Deb Haaland, have shown a willingness to engage with tribes to correct the naming of sacred and reverent places back to their historically appropriate names.

The Name: ᎫᏬᎯ or Kuwohi, translates into English as “Mulberry place”. Kuwohi is the geographical high point near the center of the ancestral Cherokee land, which has cultural and spiritual significance to the Cherokee.

The History: From time immemorial, Cherokee people have occupied the lands of Western North Carolina, Eastern Tennessee, and much of what is today the southeastern United States. This mountain has special significance to Cherokees, as it was visited by medicine people who prayed and sought guidance from the Creator regarding important matters facing Cherokee people, and then returned to Cherokee towns to give guidance and advice. Kuwohi is also well documented in oral teachings of Cherokee stories; for example, the Bears used to meet in council under Kuwohi.

When Europeans came to North America, the plagues they brought with them decimated indigenous people. Soon thereafter, the mountain Kuwohi and the rest of the land surrounding it was taken through violence, oppression, coercion and broken treaties. When Andrew Jackson forced the Cherokee onto the Trail of Tears, removing the Cherokee people off of their ancestral land and towards the unfamiliar plains of Oklahoma, many lives were lost and heritage was disrupted. However, some Cherokee took refuge under this mountain as a place to hide out. This is how the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (ECBI) was born. Therefore, this mountain has great cultural and historical significance.

How the name changed: In the 1850’s, a European-born-geographer named Arnold Guyot was commissioned to survey the mountains of Western North Carolina and East Tennessee. Guyot was famous for advocating what is today referred to as “scientific racism” which “links continent locations, topography, and climate to the superiority of certain races”. Guyot used his privileged position to rename many of the largest mountains on the east coast after himself and his friends. He disregarded the ancestral names, disrespecting the cultural and spiritual significance of them to uplift himself.

Guyot renamed Kuwohi after Thomas Clingman. Clingman was a United States Senator from North Carolina who had no substantial ties to Cherokee people and who forcefully argued on the Senate floor that slavery be maintained. Clingman is mostly remembered for leaving the United States Senate in 1861 to fight against the United States as a Confederate general. Now is the time to work together to restore the original name of this mountain.

Meet the organizers

Lavita Hill and Mary Crowe were inspired to begin the name change proposal after Yellowstone National Park's Mount Doane was renamed to First Peoples Mountain in June by the Board on Geographic Names. They are enrolled members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Lavita Hill is a Treasury Specialist with the Eastern Band. She is a proud mom, who lives in the Big Cove Community of Swain County. She is driven and focused. Lavita is a strong leader who will see this effort through to completion.

Mary Crowe is a project coordinator at the Indigenous Environmental Network. She is an indigenous activist who cares deeply about her community. Mary's passion is inspiring to all who interact with her.

Let's follow these wise woman and restore the name of this mountain.