Grandpa Buzzard flies off to Cherokee Indian Hospital



In 2015, Cherokee Indian Hospital opened the doors of a new state-of-the-art facility designed specifically to reduce stigma and create a warm and comfortable atmosphere for patients. Among the designs was the integration of traditional myths and legends, including the “river walk” through the main mall, as water promotes healing in the Cherokee culture.

In 2015, Cherokee Indian Hospital opened the doors of a new state-of-the-art facility designed specifically to reduce stigma and create a warm and comfortable atmosphere for patients. (Photos from Cherokee Indian Hospital)

In 2019, a grant from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation funded a project that would not only create the final piece in the creation story told throughout the hospital, but continue the revitalization of metalworking on the Qualla border. More specifically, she enlisted the services of a team of craftsmen: William Rogers, Nathan Bush and James (JR) Wolfe.

“The inclusion of Grandpa Buzzard’s presence is critical to the completion of the Cherokee creation story depicted in the artistic performance in the main mall area,” said Carmaleta Monteith, chairman of the board. administration of the CIHA. “

The story goes back to when the water beetle first came to earth, plunged into vast seas of water, and brought soft mud to the surface.

“When the waters began to recede and the land could be seen, the Grandfather’s Hawk was dispatched to find a place for the animals to live,” said Dawn Arneach, Acting Director of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian . “When he reached Cherokee country he was tired of flying, when his wings fell it created the valleys and when he lifted them up it created our mountains – this is a short version of how the Great Smoky Mountains were made. “

The life-size Grandfather Buzzard has a wingspan of six feet and soars, suspended by a steel cable and is made of hammered copper in a technique called repousse ‘in which sheets of metal are shaped three-dimensionally to the using hammers and stakes. Traditionally, Eastern tribes used hammer stones to create relief images on copper sheets after first hammering nuggets into thin sheets. For the most part, only fragments remain. On several, archaeologists have drawn missing parts to allow a more complete picture to emerge. Among the best known of these mississippian coins is a 13e century-old copper plate found in northern Georgia. Known as the Rogan Plate, the embossed leaf depicts a hero figure wearing an elaborate headdress with a hawk-like beaked nose.

Grandfather Buzzard was designed by master craftsman William Rogers who custom-builds metals and teaches from his studio in Cullowhee. As a consultant, he developed a blacksmith studio for the Jackson County Green Energy Park, adapting a gas forge to burn methane recovered from an old landfill. Over the past decade, supported by grants from the North Carolina Arts Council and the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, he has been an artist in residence at several schools, where he and his students have built collaborative sculptures that remain in school.

William Rogers, a master metallurgist, pictured left, worked on the project with EBCI tribal members Nathan Bush and James (JR) Wolf

Rogers partnered with two young blacksmiths for this project; it was working with the apprentices that helped him learn more about the relationship between metal and culture. “Nathan and JR helped me learn more about Cherokee visual images and the role they play in telling Cherokee stories,” Rogers said. “By working together on the Grandfather Buzzard, they gained experience in professional metalworking and experience working with contract and grant obligations. “

Coming from the Snowbird community, Bush has demonstrated the art of hammered copper in the Indian village of Oconaluftee since 2015. He started working there as a gardener and became the coordinator of the program where he supervises the artisans. He’s an expert in herbal medicine, something he learned from his mother and grandmother growing up.

Wolfe is from the community of Big Cove, an area on the Qualla border known for preserving its traditions. An artist all his life, he has mastered several mediums, including pottery, basketry, sculpture and metalwork. He is best known for his figurative sculptures complete with miniature weapons. After working in the Indian village of Oconaluftee as a historical performer for over a decade, he started his own business as a full-time professional artist.

Monteith added that by including talented craftsmen Cherokee Wolfe and Bush as apprentices to master metallurgist William Rogers, it gave tribe members the opportunity to build their interest and skills in revitalizing metal craftsmanship by Cherokee artists. , sharing that “the resulting sculpture represents the level of achievement of these talented artists.

Grandpa Buzzard’s sculpture is now located above the pharmacy lobby in the “river walk” area of ​​the Cherokee Indian Hospital.

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