News & Events
Mars Hill College Signs Agreement with Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
Mars Hill College and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians formalized a long-standing relationship of respect and cooperation February 16 with the signing of an agreement designed to strengthen historical resources for the college, and improve educational opportunities for members of the Tribe.
Michell Hicks, Principal Chief of EBCI, and Dr. Dan Lunsford, president of Mars Hill College, participated in the signing ceremony February 16 in the Executive Dining Room of Pittman Dining Hall on the campus.
The Agreement calls for the tribe to take an active role in continuing to provide advice and consultation for various historic events and presentations at the college. It also calls for a cooperative effort to provide comprehensive scholarship funds for all members of the Tribe who qualify academically, and who choose to attend Mars Hill College.
Mars Hill will provide scholarship funds for one year for the first two members of the tribe who commit to attend the college. The EBCI will provide scholarship funds for those students’ remaining three years, as well as any scholarship funds needed for additional members of the tribe who choose to attend Mars Hill.
According to Lunsford, the agreement honors Mars Hill’s commitment to diversity among the student body, as well as engagement in the region. That commitment has long included connections which celebrate all aspects of southern Appalachian heritage, he said.
“Our Cherokee heritage is such an important part of who we are here in the Southern Appalachians. Mars Hill College has a long-standing commitment to preserving the dance and song traditions of our European ancestors, as well as the culture and traditions of the oldest part of our heritage, relating to the Cherokee people,” he said.
“Our students have long benefited from guest lecturers, presenters and performers who were members of the Cherokee tribe,” Lunsford said. “This agreement is a continuation of the relationship we have always enjoyed, and an affirmation that we will continue to work together for all our students, of all backgrounds.”
According to Ed Hoffmeyer, Mars Hill’s Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, the hope is that Mars Hill will appeal to young Cherokees who are interested in a small college campus that offers individual attention from professors and small class sizes.
“Our tradition at Mars Hill has been one of connection with the communities surrounding our campus,” Hoffmeyer said. “That includes taking advantage of the expertise of members of the tribe, as well as celebrating the contributions of alumni, who go back to serve their community in various ways after they graduate. This agreement is one of many efforts to continue and enhance that tradition.”
Mars Hill College is the first private college with which the ECBI has signed an agreement of this nature.
Nowhere at Mars Hill College is the commitment to heritage more evident than in the events and collections housed at the Liston B. Ramsey Center for Regional Studies, Lunsford said. Several members of the Cherokee Nation, including officials, elders and performers, have provided consultation in the past regarding the Native American artifacts in the holdings of the Southern Appalachian Archives, housed at the Ramsey Center. Among the center’s most significant collections is the Gertrude Ruskin Collection of Native American artifacts, which has been featured in several events and displays in connection with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.