Sky Wildcat Chosen for Cherokee Environmental Leadership Program
Sky Wildcat, recent UNITY’s 25 Under 25 Awardee, was one of four chosen to participate in a three year program incorporating Cherokee (ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ, Tsalagi Gawonihisdi) language revitalization and cultural environmental stewardship. Wildcat explains how earlier this month she “began the Cherokee Environmental Leadership Program where we will focus on learning the Cherokee language, identifying medicinal plants, their uses, and English/Latin/Cherokee names.”
Wildcat received her two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Psychology and Geography from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and currently serves as a Graduate Assistant with the Center for Tribal Studies. Her cohort will be sustaining traditional activities, such as cooking traditional foods or making baskets from natural materials, and will meet with Cherokee elders for one on one mentorship.
“To begin the program, we took a hike in a rural location in Adair County in Oklahoma, and looked for medicinal plants” Wildcat reflected. “We will be working to clear the trail so that elders may visit the area and gather plants they need.” Wildcat exemplifies UNITY Wellness Warrior’s recent “Call to Action” to explore food sovereignty and plan a wellness community service project. UNITY youth are challenged to seek out elders and community leaders to learn more about traditional foods. Through a partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, UNITY Wellness Warriors offers a free mobile app for youth to share their traditional food recipes and medicines with other Youth Councils.The mobile app is available for download on Android and Apple devices.
“The Cherokee Environmental Leadership Program is important to me because I believe learning our language and learning how to identify the life the land and water provide for us is essential to protecting our environment. We know that our environment is important to us, but we need to be able to explain why and how. We know the basic uses to sustain our life, but in order to truly protect it, we have to understand how much it gives to us and the proper way to utilize it, as well as honor it.” – Sky Wildcat, 22, Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma
Want to learn more on Cherokee plants and medicines? There are several resources available nation wide. “What’s That Plant?” A plant module developed in partnership by the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is now available online for teachers to download and use with K-12 students. According to the website, “The module integrates current science-based knowledge with the traditional knowledge passed down from generation to generation of Cherokee.”