WVU celebrates 20 years of peace with annual Peace Tree ceremony
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 02:10
The sound of a beating Native American drum from the center of West Virginia University’s Downtown campus summoned many to come together for the University’s annual Peace Tree Ceremony Tuesday.
The ceremony is part of WVU’s annual Diversity Week. It celebrated the 20th anniversary of the planting of the original Peace Tree and the University’s commitment to the rediscovery of Native American heritages.
"It is a time for us each year to come together," said WVU Native American Studies Coordinator Bonnie Brown. "It shows we have unity in our diversity."
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Dean Bob Jones began there ceremony with a welcome and quoted words from famous Native Americans.
Jones compared their philosophies to the goals of WVU in relation to diversity.
"We try to develop the concept of inclusive excellence," he said. "Together we solve problems better with all of our diversities."
This year’s guest of honor at the ceremony was Cheewa James of the Modoc Tribe.
James, storyteller and author, has works published in both "Smithsonian Magazine" and "National Wildlife."
"She has a beautiful way of communicating," Brown said.
During her presentation, James spoke through sayings of peace, the Native American belief that all things are interrelated and how she believed diversity should unite individuals rather than tear them apart.
Ellesa High, member of the Lower Eastern Ohio Mekoce Shawnee and Native American Studies Program Committee, shared the story of the coming of the Great Peacemaker and the
history of the Peace Tree at WVU.
The original Peace Tree was planted in September of 1992.
However, in August of 1996 the tree was cut down by vandals.
Another tree was then planted in its place and included a staff made from he remains of the original tree.
The staff was carried by an ROTC student during Tuesday’s ceremony.
The great white pine tree was selected to be planted because it never loses its needles; it always remains green, High said.
High said the event is meant serve as a reminder to the WVU community that peace should stay evergreen, just as the tree does.
"It needs to stay fresh before our eyes," she said.
High said the needles of the tree are often in bundles of five, which represents the five Iroquois nations who originally joined together to celebrate peace hundreds of years ago.
The tree also has four white roots: each pointing in the four cardinal directions.
"Anyone who is willing to think of peace can
follow these roots," High said.
Another guest at the ceremony was an American Bald Eagle named Thunder and his handler Mike Book from the West Virginia Raptor Rehabilitation Center.
The eagle is a Native American symbol for the culture’s desire to remain vigilant and keep watchful so as not to disrupt the peace, High said.
An Army veteran was brought forward to place a club under the tree to
symbolize the Iroquois’ belief in laying down of weapons.
"To the Iroquois, peace is not just the absence of war," High said. "Peace has to be earned."
Afterward, members of the audience were invited to share in the tradition of tying prayer ribbons into the tree. The tying of ribbons represents individual prayers for peace.
"Peace is not just for us, it’s for all those coming,. ou can’t chop peace down."