Native Village 
Youth and Education News

December 1, 2013

UTC ROTC plans collaboration with Cherokee
Condensed by Native Village

Tennessee:  Maj. Robert E. Ricks heads the Military Science department at the University of Tennessee/Chattanooga. After taking the position a year ago, he made it a mission to better reflect Chattanooga's role in Cherokee history by revising the ROTC battalion's call-and-response.

"The Cherokee people, by and large, are nearly invisible in modern times," Ricks said. "But they're such a part of American history, in so many people's lineage. Essentially, the Eastern Band Cherokees were the ones left behind from the Trail of Tears."

There are 288,000 members federally recognized Cherokee tribes.  The Eastern Band of Cherokee, home to 12,500 residents, is the only tribe still located on its traditional homelands.

UTC's Mocs Battalion will update its current motto, "It Shall Be Done," to a new call-and-response, "Guardians of the Lands/Lead by Example." The new response reflects the legacy of Dragging Canoe, the Cherokee war chief who established Chickamauga and 11 other towns in Chattanooga area during the 18th century.

Ricks calls the new motto "relevant" and says he respects the unanimous approval of the Cherokee tribe.

The ROTC program didn't stop at correcting and honoring the portrayal of Cherokee history. The more both  sides talked, the more they became interested in a scholastic partnership.

This May, UTC hopes to send 24 students from every major -- including business, nursing and communications -- to the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation. Students will provide services related to their majors while gaining greater cultural understanding and earning credit hours.

The internship pays tribute to Army Pfc. Charles George, a Cherokee awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery in the Korean War. When a grenade was thrown at his company in the trenches, George threw himself on top, absorbing the entire blast. The 20-year-old native of Cherokee, N.C., remained silent despite the pain so not as to give away his company's position before his death.

UTC's students aim to connect the gap history left behind for the tribe:

English and communications majors will help preserve the Cherokee language. Most fluent speakers are over 50 years old, and a number die every year.

UTC's nursing majors hope to improve tribe members' health by teaming up with a nearby hospital. Cherokees and Native Americans suffer from some of the highest diabetes rates in the world.

Ricks' ROTC cadets have adopted a legacy and appreciation for the Cherokee. They are collaborating with the Cherokee ROTC and JROTC high school programs to provide leadership and civil duty to its young members.

"The tribe has been very receptive to it," said aid Lew Harding, post commander of American Legion Post 143 of Cherokee, N.C. "Everyone I've talked to over here is on board."

Harding hopes this program grows to resemble one at UT in Knoxville. UTK provides eight scholarships to Cherokee students every year.

Ricks said an internship could make a big difference young Cherokee scholars.

"Hopefully, this program will work toward putting more Native American students on this campus in large numbers," he said. "Even if that means seven generations from now."

Only 13% of Native Americans earn college degrees, compared to 30% for the rest of the United States.

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