Literary Homecoming Opportunity

Zach_EvansThanks to the Honors College, nine fellow students and I just had the privilege of attending an intimate literary discussion with the extraordinarily fascinating author, Wiley Cash. Mr. Cash covered everything from his Western North Carolinian childhood to his inspiration for his New York Times Bestseller A Land More Kind Than Home. Not only was Mr. Cash personable and approachable- he was outgoing, funny and an all-around genuine character. His proclivity to turn subjects that are tough to handle such as race and religion into lighthearted discussion was really something special. Most importantly, Mr. Cash presented himself as a genuine, kindhearted writer who simply got a big break.

Wiley Cash told us at the beginning of our discussion that he was born and raised in Gastonia, North Carolina (just outside of Charlotte). Growing up in Gastonia, he frequently took trips westward toward the mountains and streams of beautiful Western North Carolina. The mountains grew on Cash and left a monumental influence on his definition of home. Upon completing his undergraduate studies, Cash traveled to Lafayette, Louisiana. I, being born in New Orleans, was immediately engulfed in his story and his inspiration for moving South. Cash said the primary reason he chose Louisiana was because it truly embodied the essence of Southern America. He said that although Florida may be the southernmost state, it does not embody the true South. Claiming that Texas was “not to be messed with”, he had no other choice than Louisiana. The secondary reason Cash chose the University of Louisiana-Lafayette was to study fiction writing under Ernest J. Gaines. Gaines’ most famous work is The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman- a novel told from the perspective of a slave woman in the civil war. The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman was eventually adapted into a miniseries and aired on CBS in 1974. Having worked under such a distinguished mentor, Cash developed a rich, full writing style which is simply a joy to read.

About halfway through the discussion, Mr. Cash performed an eye opening exercise with us on the way to set up a story. He started by reading the first two pages of his book; this is an excerpt told from the perspective of Adelaide Lyle, a middle to old aged woman who grew up in Marshall, NC. Marshall is in Madison County; growing up in Asheville we referred to Madison County as “redneck territory” and believe me, Madison County is about the closest thing to West Virginia you’ll find in North Carolina. What I mean by this is that the archaic confederate flags are strewn about the town, the mindset of the people is set almost by default to only respect white people, and lastly the inbred references/jokes come in abundance. That being said, Madison County is a perfect setting for this story of struggle in a Southern region. Cash’s exercise focused exclusively on setting. The point of this exercise was to show us how easily readers are told a story through context clues. With this excerpt, Mr. Cash walked us through the entire setup of the narrative which we subconsciously pulled from these mere two pages. The gender, age, race, nationality, region of the country, era, season of the year, social class of the character, the education level, political bias AND religious faith were all made clear in the first two pages! Cash believes that a great writer must fill the reader in with an abundance of details as soon as possible within the story. Through this exercise, it was made apparent to all of us that Mr. Cash has the potential to go down in history as one of the most renowned Southern fiction authors of the twenty first century.

This discussion with Mr. Cash was intellectually stimulating, all the while being casual and fun. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet Mr. Cash and to get to know him on a personal level. This is just another one of the amazing opportunities the Honors College has provided me with and a reminder of how lucky we all are to be in such an awesome program.

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Honors College Charlotte Adventures

Tim_RunyanIt was a warm and sunny July day at the U.S. National Whitewater Center near Charlotte where incoming Honors College students gathered to test their courage against the rapids at the Olympic whitewater rafting training site. Their concerns were justified. Several of the 45 students and seven college staff members, were catapulted from their rafts into the raging waters. It was great fun! Student Joy Taylor’s raft turned up on its side and she was launched into the water along with the raft’s guide!  Both were hauled back aboard to complete the course. Joy declared it was “a thrilling experience. I had a blast.”

The Center also offered ropes courses, bike trails, zip lines, rock climbing and canoeing.

A change of pace was provided that evening at a minor league baseball game where the Charlotte Knights lost a close one to the Gwinnett Braves. Honors College Advancement Council member Bill Langley provided tickets and a ballpark buffet including franks and burgers for the hungry students. ECU Board of Trustees chair Robert Brinkley and his wife Amy also attended. Mr. Brinkley congratulated the Honors College staff, led by Dean Marianna Walker, for bringing talented students to ECU and offering them an array of rich programs and opportunities.

Megan Daniel declared that the day was “so much fun. I now know so many of my classmates, and we have shared such great experiences. I can’t wait to start classes.” Charlotte was the site of the third kickoff event offered to incoming Honors College students. The objective is to build social and academic relationships that will assist their success at ECU.

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Honoring the Parks

Tim_RunyanStudents admitted to East Carolina University’s Honors College will begin classes this fall, but they began a commitment to service July 16 as volunteers at Umstead State Park in Raleigh. They raked fire lanes, closed social trails, collected litter, and assisted park rangers to improve the experience for the park’s 1.7 million annual visitors. Umstead has the highest visitation figure for North Carolina state parks although cared for by a small staff.

Umstead State Park in Raleigh is situated off interstate highways and near the RDU airport. It is a sylvan retreat in the state capital. With campsites and several man-made lakes for boating and fishing, Umstead is a testament to the economic recovery efforts to address the Great Depression following the stock market crash in 1929.  The park was a Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) project. It provided jobs when there were few to be had.

Students worked in teams under the guidance of veteran Park Ranger Billy Hartness, the recent father of twins. He remarked that he rarely had volunteers who showed up in such numbers— 41 students, plus 5 staff. He was also impressed with their enthusiasm for work. The tasks were finished in less time than expected.

The ECU Honors College values public service as principal component of its mission, embodied in the ECU Latin motto, Servire—to serve.

And there was levity! Students held a skit competition that had everyone in stitches. The day concluded with a picnic of pizza provided by Mellow Mushroom in Cary. Owner Robert Greczyn, a former ECU trustee and board chair, provided the pizza with the assistance of Will Greczyn. Honors College dean Marianna Walker welcomed Honors College Advancement Council member Laura Brinn and her family, who supported the event.

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Honors Pirates on the Pamlico

Tim_RunyanIt was a dark and stormy 15th of June!  But fifty students newly admitted to the East Carolina University Honors College, boarded the 72-foot schooner Jeanie B at Washington, NC for a cruise down the Pamlico River. The first band sailed in the morning in fair conditions. On return they were treated to lunch with the second group of sailors at On the Waterfront restaurant, hosted by owner and Pirate alum Billy Dunn.

The Jeanie B has two masts, a blue hull, white sails, and is a floating educational platform. Students serve as crew, raising and lowering sails, commanding the helm and handling lines. Most climbed the ratlines to reach the top of the main mast. Instructions for the landlubbers are provided by Captain Paul Del Rio and Mate Charles, also a licensed captain. Students busied themselves trimming sail, tacking ship due to blustery weather, while the afternoon crew heaved to and enjoyed a swim on calmer waters.

The students signed up for this event from across the state and beyond, as part of the kick off events that bring incoming Honors college students together before fall classes begin. The day before, they participated in the first Honors College orientation day. The Jeanie B has become the adopted “official vessel” of the Honors College. Students find her an ideal place to help smooth the transition to ECU so that when classes begin they can “hit the decks running.”  What better introduction to the Pirate Nation. Arrgghh!!

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A Reflection on the Nooherooka 300 Commemoration

Lyndsey_SweetThe events of March 21-23, 1713 on a plowed Carolina field should still be remembered today, three hundred years later. The problem began when the colonists settled in the Americas. The colonists invaded the land the natives had lived on for many years. One of the main causes of the Tuscarora War was “colonists who would not allow them to hunt near their plantations, and under that pretense took away from their game, arms, and ammunition.”[1] The colonists did not understand that the natives did not know they were not allowed to be on the colonists’ land, and as a result, hostile feelings rose between the two groups. The colonists continued to expand, depleting the land where the Tuscarora hunted and lived. This caused the beginning of the war in September 1711. There was conflict off and on for the next few years, but the Tuscarora were desperately trying to hold onto their homeland. It is important to note that there were also internal conflicts between the Tuscarora Indians. The northern Tuscarora did not feel the impacts of the invading colonists and wanted to keep up with their successful fur trade with Virginia. As a result, they did not want to fight.[2] On March 23, 1713 West of present day Snow Hill, NC in Greene County, their struggle was brought to an end.

North Carolinians asked for help from both Virginia and South Carolina. Virginia did not have much interest in North Carolina’s problems, and it thus did not send any troops. They turned to South Carolina, who saw profit in helping North Carolina. If they captured the Indians, they could sell them as slaves.[3] With help from South Carolina, the North Carolinians launched their last attack of the Tuscarora War. Colonel James Moore of South Carolina led 900 Indians and 33 white colonists into Fort Nooherooka. There the Indians killed, scalped, sold into slavery, or buried alive at least 900 Tuscarora Indians. By March 23, 1713 the battle and the war was over. The survivors migrated northward, to upstate New York.[4] This battle was significant because it was Indians fighting Indians, and it was the last Tuscarora stronghold in North Carolina.

The events of March 21-23, 1713 should be remembered in North Carolina, and specifically in Eastern North Carolina in Pitt and Greene Counties because this battle took place on the land where we live. The Tuscarora people lived on the land where we work and go to school. Studying and commemorating the events of the Battle at Fort Nooherooka, and the related Tuscarora history can give insight on the way many Indians felt during the time period. All over North Carolina and the colonies, Indians were being confined to smaller pieces of land, but did not know what that meant, which caused the resulting wars. These Indian wars are often looked over by our society today, but had the Indians prevailed, we may not be going to school or living in this area.

In the three hundred year commemoration in March 2013, several events were held to commemorate the battle, as well as teach to Americans about the Tuscarora Nation then and today. There is an exhibition in East Carolina University’s Joyner Library. This exhibit attempts to tell the story from the time the colonists settled in the New World, through the Indian Wars, specifically the Battle at Fort Nooherooka, and ending with the Tuscarora Nation in New York today. The exhibition has the potential to give an audience a view of what the times were like both before and during the Indian Wars.

A website was created for general information about the Tuscarora tragedy and the commemoration. There are specific topics on the website such as artifacts found on the archeological dig, information about the exhibit, the Tuscarora story, and other specific topics. One key feature of this website is the videos that were created when four Tuscarora delegates came to North Carolina. They are asked a variety of questions about their lives, their traditions, struggles, and views that are related to the Tuscarora Nation today. These videos will give the audience a look into the lives of the Tuscarora Nation.

During the commemoration, there was a series of lectures, dealing with different topics and aspects of the Tuscarora Nation. There are lectures on the tragedy, their current homeland in New York, their language, and the repatriation process, among many others. These lectures allow the general public to learn more about specific aspects of the Tuscarora Indians, both past and present.

During the first day of lectures, East Carolina was presented with a wampum belt. This was an immense honor because the last time the Tuscarora Nation presented a wampum belt was to George Washington. The belt was presented during a wampum ceremony. Wampum belts represent treaties and tell stories through the design. The treaty is read into the belt and each chief and clan mother held the wampum belt before it was presented to the Provost. The belt represents the appreciation shown by the Tuscarora nation to East Carolina for putting this event and commemoration on, as well as to accept the apology for what happened to their people.

On the last day of the commemoration, a monument was dedicated near the Nooherooka Fort site. The monument is in remembrance of the Tuscarora men, women, and children, who lost their lives, were held captive, or forced to move from their homeland, during the battle. It is important to have something on the site where the main battle took place because it is a reminder of the sacrifice those Indians made so we can live, work, and go to school on the land where they once hunted and lived.

The last part of the commemoration, which I believe speaks the most about the events of March 1713, is the migration walk. Members of the Tuscarora Nation walked and currently are walking from the fort site back to their reservation in New York. This migration represents the walk that the remaining Tuscarora survivors made after the battle at Fort Nooherooka. They will return to the reservation June 1, 2013.

The story of the Tuscarora Nations is largely unknown, even in the present areas where they lived three hundred years ago. It is important for the public to understand this specific tragedy, as well as many others like it across the colonies. To be a part of this event was a great honor. I appreciate all the hard work by ECU faculty, staff, and fellow students, as well as the Tuscarora Nation. The events that took place on March 21-23, 1713 are among some of the most important in Native American and North Carolina history.


[1] Elizabeth Fenn, The Way we Lived in North Carolina, (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2003), 53.

[2] Ibid., 55.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 58.

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