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Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Recognizes November as Native American Heritage Month

At the Nov. 16, 2021 regular meeting, the Board of Commissioners proclaimed the month of November as Native American Heritage Month. Buncombe County employees and members of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Amy Saunooke and Sonja Saunooke accepted the proclamation from Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara.

“When I was young, I can remember my grandfather Edward Saunooke talking about growing up on the reservation,” Sonja Saunooke said. “He talked about the poverty, he talked about the boarding schools, he talked about the Cherokee language and how it’s dying, and he talked about the violence toward his people. This proclamation is a positive direction toward truth and reconciliation for the Native Americans, my grandfather, my family, and over 13,000 enrolled members of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians and the citizens of Buncombe County as well. WADO, which means ‘thank you’ in Cherokee.”

“This is a historic moment – it’s the first time Buncombe County has issued a proclamation in honor of Native American Heritage Month,” said Chief Equity and Human Rights Officer Rachel Edens. “Coupled with intentional work to acknowledge that Buncombe County sits on the ancestral land of the Cherokee, this proclamation affords our community the opportunity to collectively acknowledge our history while also honoring our Indigenous neighbors who endure to this day.”

In part, the proclamation reads:

Whereas, in honoring the cultures, traditions, and accomplishments of Native Americans that have shaped our country, we also acknowledge our nation’s history of colonialism that has inflicted discrimination, deprivation, violence, and genocide upon indigenous people; and

Whereas, the area currently known as Buncombe County, North Carolina rests on land that was first inhabited by the Cherokee, their ancestors, and other indigenous peoples; and

Whereas, the traditional territory of the Cherokee covered more than 100,000 square miles of what today is western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, northern Georgia, and upstate South Carolina… 

Click here to view the full proclamation.

Recently the Register of Deeds collaborated with its Cherokee counterparts to collect information for a website featuring the history of Cherokee land cessions that created Buncombe County. This interactive website details how Cherokee Nation eventually lost its land to the United States, and in particular North Carolina. 

To learn more about the Buncombe County Equity & Human Rights Office and the Buncombe County Racial Equity Action Plan, click here.