Ceremony encourages WVU to share peace
Published: Thursday, October 21, 2010
Updated: Thursday, October 21, 2010 22:10
A message of peace was shared across campus as students at West Virginia University participated in the annual Peace Tree Ceremony as part of Diversity Week.
The ceremony has been taking place for 18 years since the original white pine tree was planted in 1992 in honor of peace, said Bonnie Brown, coordinator and lecturer of Native American studies.
Participants tied ribbons to the tree in honor of peace, said Ellesa High, English professor and Native American Studies program committee member.
In addition, dark blue ribbons were placed in honor of veterans, she said.
Michele Wheatly, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, spoke about how she can see the Peace Tree from her office in Stewart Hall and what it represents to her.
"WVU recently broke an enrollment record," she said. "Many of these students were born in 1992. It's great to see what was accomplished in 18 years."
Peace is an active process and something she has learned in her life, said Karenne Wood, guest speaker at the ceremony and a member of the Monacan Indian Nation.
"Whether you are Muslim, gay or trying to pursue the military, an immigrant without the correct paperwork or whatever, we all need to respect each other," she said. "Every living being has some sort of intelligence and thought."
Wood offered greetings and a prayer in the Monacan Indian Nation's language called Tutelo.
An American bald eagle named Thunder circled around the tree, since bald eagles represent the closest entity to the creator, High said.
After the blessing, Wood led participants in a dance circling the tree symbolizing the native belief that time runs in cycles.
This was the first year that dancing had been included in the ceremony, High said.
The Peace Tree was originally planted in fall 1992 but was vandalized and cut down in summer 1996, she said.
Mohawk Chief Jake Swamp, who passed away earlier this week, founded a Peace Tree Committee and planted a new white pine tree in its place in fall 1996, High said.
Swamp was a Mohawk spiritual leader who traveled the world sharing knowledge and planting white pine trees for peace, according to the Tree of Peace Society's website, an organization Swamp founded.
A feather was tied to the Peace Tree in honor of Swamp's life and what he had done for the University, High said.
"‘You can't cut peace down' was what Chief Swamp said at the ceremony in '96," she said.