Power of Place: NEH 2016 Summer Institute

Power og Place: Land and Peoples in Appalachia


“The Power of Place: Lands and Peoples in Appalachia” NEH Summer Institutes for School Teachers for School Teachers will be offered July 10-22, 2016.
Two weeks prior to arrival for the institute, participants will be asked to participate in an online forum based on viewing the PBS-series Appalachia: A History of Mountains and People.

Syllabus Overview

Week one

Monday-Wednesday’s theme is “First Encounters”. We explore the birth of the mountains and the civilizations created by the first thousand generations to live there. We contrast the world view of the early inhabitants of the mountains with the assumptions of the arriving European colonists. We examine how the global market effects profound changes on Appalachian resources and cultures.

For Discussion:

How first humans interacted with the mountains
What we know about their world and its ecology
How the European colonists perceived the mountains, the forests and the people they found
Commodification of land and its resources
Impact of these assumption and tools on the landscape and the way of life
Global connections

“You don’t live somewhere ten thousand years without learning something.”
Bo Taylor, Museum of the Cherokee


1:00—5:00 Registration
5:00 Personal Introductions and Logistics: Pierce, Ross, Locklear
6:15 Leave for dinner and tour of the French Broad River Park, Wilma Dykeman RiverWay

“Chapter 18: Who Killed the French Broad” in Dykeman, Wilma, and Douglas W. Gorsline. The French Broad, Rivers of America, # 50. University of Tennessee Press, 1965
The author of nearly two dozen books, Wilma Dykeman work explores in detail the relations between the people and land of Appalachia. She explored her native region often joyously, sometimes painfully, but always honestly, in both fiction and nonfiction. In The French Broad, Dykeman tells the history of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee by following one of its major waterways from beginning to end.


9:00 Introduction and Uses of Environmental History Discussion: Pierce, Ross, Locklear
Locklear will introduce the seminar and explain briefly the proposed content and approach of the institute with its emphasis on the role of landscape in influencing culture.

Crosby, Alfred W. “The Past and Present of Environmental History.” American Historical Review 100, no. 4 (October 1995): 1177-1190

10:30 Biodiversity and History in Appalachia: Ross, Pierce

Resources and Readings:
APPALACHIA excerpts: Half a Billion Years, Salamanders
Pierce, Daniel. Chapter 1 from The Great Smokies: From Natural Habitat to National Park
Dunn, Cade’s Cove. “Chap. 1: Settlement and Early History”, pp. 1-22, “Chap. 2: The Impact of the Wilderness”, pp. 23-62.

12:30 Lunch and discussion with Professor Timothy Silver: Indians and Colonists in the Appalachian Forest

Mt Mitchell

“The participant discussions were lively and took place not only in class but at dinner,on the buses, and even while relaxing.” Power of Place participant

1:30- 4:30 Reading the Land: Professor Silver, author of Mount Mitchell and the Black Mountains: An Environmental History of the Highest Peaks in Eastern America will take us on a tour of forested landscapes near Mount Mitchell, the tallest peak on the eastern seaboard. Professor Silver will discuss the area’s natural history and the variety of forest communities and diversity of plant life found. Professor Silver, one of the foremost experts on forest and human history, gives us a lesson on reading the forested landscape for clues to its past.

For further reflection:
Take a lesson you have taught in the past and think of how reframing it with an environmental history approach would alter the lesson. Come to the seminar Tuesday afternoon ready to share your example.


9:00 Cherokee Creation Stories: Locklear, Ross

Resources and Readings:
APPALACHIA excerpt: Cherokee Creation Story
Excerpts from Rozema, Vicki. Cherokee Voices: Early Accounts of Cherokee Life in the East.  Winston Salem: Blair, 2002:
“The Manly Game of Ball-playing”, 1848 (141-147)
Excerpt from Charles Lanman’s Letters from the Allegheny Mountains
Sound from the Distant Mountains: The Cherokee Storytellers, 1887-90 (148-157 “The First Fire”“The Ice Man” “The Removed Townhouses”
Excerpt from Mooney, James. Myths of the Cherokee. Dover Publications, Inc., 1995 (republished from original publication in 1900): “Origin of Strawberries” (259)
Excerpts from Duncan, Barbara. Living Stories of the Cherokee. University of North Carolina, 1998: Introduction (1-27) Kathi Smith Littlejohn (29-32), “First Man and First Woman” (55-58), Davey Arch (75-79), “The Origin of Strawberries” (100-101), “Growing up in Cherokee” (102-105), Freeman Owle (193-201) “The Origin of Strawberries” (226-227)

10:30 Changes in the Land: The Fur Trade and the Global Economy: Ross, Pierce

Resources and Readings:
Silver, Timothy “Chapter 4: “Europeans Going Thither,” in A New Face on the Countryside: Indians, Colonists, and Slaves in South Atlantic Forests, 1500-1800.

1:30 Reflection and Discussion
2:30 Lesson Plans and Conferences


Field Trip to Cherokee

9:00 The ancient site of Kituwah and River Cane Restoration Project with Tom Belt, enrolled Cherokee member and Cherokee Language instructor
Tom Belt at Kituwah 2011-07-14

“A true immersion in Appalachian study that was fun, thought-provoking, and shared with an incredibly bright and diverse group of participants from all over the US.” Power of Place participant

11:00 Oconaluftee Living History Village and Native Plants Museum, Qualla Arts
1:00 Lunch: Picnic at Welcome Center Museum at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
2:00 Tour of the Mountain Homestead
3: 30 Leave for Asheville

Thursday and Friday’s theme is “Mountain Homesteads”. Europeans bring an entirely new set of assumptions regarding humans in landscape. They also bring new tools—iron pots and shovels, guns and the surveyor’s compass. We compare and contrast the cultural assumptions of the Indians and the Europeans regarding the land. The fur trade completely transforms the land as it draws American Indians into the global economy. The mountain homesteads the new settlers carve out of the landscape reflect much that they learned from the Indians. Mountains farms represent a new human ecology in the Appalachians.

Topics for discussion:
Tools and knowledge Europeans brought
What they learned from the Indians
Ecology of the mountain homestead
Global connections
Slavery in the mountains—similarities and differences to the lowland South
Civil War and its aftermath


9:00 Reflection and Discussion: Pierce, Ross, Locklear

10:00 Mountain Farms: Woodlands Agriculture and Settlement Patterns: Ross,Pierce

Resources and Readings:
APPALACHIA: New Green World Excerpts
Dunn, Cade’s Cove, Chap. 3: “The Market Economy”
Olmsted, Frederick Law. Excerpt from A Journey in the Backcountry, 1860. Reprint. Williamstown, Mass: Corner House Publishers, 1972.
The ledgers of William Holland Thomas
Proclamation Line of 1763
Early immigration routes
Great Philadelphia Wagon Road
Cade’s Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

12:30 Leave for Vance Birthplace

Folk Art Center

“Fantastic. Fabulous. Inspiring. Awesome. Enriching. Rewarding. It was a time of renewal for me. I came away with my great ideas and lesson plans that I will be able to incorporate in my classroom Social Studies lessons.” Power of Place participant

Veteto, James R. “Down deep in the holler: chasing seeds and stories in southern Appalachia.” Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 9.1 (2013): 69.
Veteto, James Robert. “Seeds of persistence.” (2010) in Veteto, James R., and Todd A. Crane. “Tending the Field: Special Issue on Agricultural Anthropology and Robert E. Rhoades.” Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment 36.1 (2014): 1-3.

At the Vance Birthplace, we get a firsthand look at a mountain farm of the eighteenth century. Dr. James Veteto will meet us and discuss his work on folk agriculture in the Appalachians. We will look closely at the ecology of the Vance farm, how it fit in with the landscape, at the products grown on the farm, and their access to markets. Included will be a discussion of the old Buncombe Turnpike, a road used to transport herds of animals especially pigs, from the upland south to markets in the low country.

5:00 Return to UNC Asheville

5:30 Optional Dr. Pierce and Dr. Veteto will discuss the role of corn in the Appalachian economy along with corn whiskey as a portable commodity. We will explore the economics and the ecology behind whiskey making. On the way back to UNC Asheville, we will visit a local artisan distillery which carries on a generations old family tradition of making moonshine—legally.


9:00 Race and Slavery in the Mountain South: Myths, Realities and Ambiguities Guest Lecturer: John Inscoe Part One: Slavery in the Mountains

Inscoe, John and Gordon McKinney. “Chapter Five: Guerilla Warfare” from The Heart of Confederate Appalachia: Western North Carolina in the Civil War. University of North Carolina Press, 1999.
Dunn, Durwood. Cades Cove. “Chapter 5: The Civil War”

10:30 Race and Slavery in the Mountain South: Myths, Realities and Ambiguities Guest Lecturer: John Inscoe Part Two: Appalachia and Race

Inscoe, John. “Race and Racism in Nineteenth-Century Southern Appalachia: Myths, Realities, and Ambiguities” in Appalachia in the Making: The Mountain South in the Nineteenth Century Mary Beth Pudup, Dwight B. Billings and Altina L. Waller (editors) Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1995.

12:00 Lunch with Professor Inscoe
1:00 Discussion and reflection
1:45 Lesson plans and conferences
3:30 Reading and discussion with Crystal Wilkinson
One of the founding members of the Affrilachian Poets group (http://www.theaffrilachianpoets.com/), Crystal Wilkinson is best known for her two short story collections, Blackberries, Blackberries and Water Street. Considering Water Street, Crystal Wilkinson’s collection of short stories will complicate common misunderstandings about the region as racially homogenous. Drawing from local color writing that often touts “pure Anglo-Saxon blood,” we will explore how Wilkinson’s contemporary fiction disrupts the myth of a white Appalachia while also interrogating how she situates the importance of place and land at the center of her narratives. During our last institute she spoke about the difficulty of finding a willing publisher for such a “radical” representation of Appalachia, one that includes racial diversity, making clear to participants that the notion of a white Appalachia still permeates the publishing industry Wilkinson’s visit will remind participants that racial expectations of the region from over a century ago still linger.

Selections from Water Street
Wilkinson, Crystal. “On Being “Country”: One Affrilachian Woman’s Return Home in Billings”, Gurney Norman, and Katherine Ledford, Eds. Backtalk from Appalachia: Confronting Stereotypes.


Tonight, an early “all you can eat” dinner at The Farmer’s Daughter Restaurant in Chucky, TN sets the stage for our evening at the Carter Family Fold. Janette Carter, one of three children of A.P. and Sara Carter, established the Carter Family Fold to honor the memory of her parents and Maybelle Carter who played a historic role in helping give birth to the age of country music beginning in 1927. The original Carter Family lived where the Carter Fold is today, in Poor Valley, at the foot of Clinch Mountain in southwest Virginia. Since 1974, the non-profit Carter Music Center has presented programs of old time and bluegrass music every weekend. The Saturday concerts highlight the musical style made popular by the Carter Family, considered by many as country music’s first family. In keeping with the traditional music style, no electrical instruments are allowed (everything is acoustic).Carter Family Fold 2


(Optional) The Biltmore House and Gardens: The largest home in America, Biltmore was built with railroad money inherited by George Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt was also responsible for the first school of forestry in the United States. The Vance homestead blends gently into its surroundings. Biltmore, on the other hand, dominates the landscape for miles, a French chateau set amidst the mountains in an elegant park designed by Frederic Law Olmsted.

Week two

Monday and Tuesday’s themes are “Industrialization in the Appalachians”. Torn asunder by the cataclysm of the Civil War, the Appalachians experience even greater transformations with the coming of the railroads. Speculators spread through every rich and mineral infused hollow, buying up timber and mineral rights. Coal camps replace villages; mountain farms are abandoned; missionary schools spring up; the land, the people, the wildlife and the culture are endangered as the coal is dug and the ancient trees are felled to fuel the nation‘s booming new industrial economy.
For discussion:
Timber and coal to fuel the nation
Land ownership patterns
Role of outsiders in defining the region
Tension over land use philosophies
The broad form deed


8:30 Discussion and Reflection: Locklear, Ross, Pierce

9:30 Ross: The Green Path and the Iron Track

Resources and Readings:
Excerpts from Part Three: Mountain Revolutions, APPALACHIA
Maps from 19th century geological surveys and railroads
Examples of the broad form deed
Dykeman, Wilma, and Douglas W. Gorsline. The French Broad, Rivers of America,# 50. University of Tennessee Press, 1965.
“Chapter 5: The Green Path and the Iron Track”.
Dunn, Durwood. Cade’s Cove. Chap. 3: The Market Economy.

10:45 Appalachia and the New Industrial Age Guest Lecturer Ron Eller

Eller, Ronald D. Miners, Millhands, and Mountaineers: Industrialization of the Appalachian South, 1880-1930. Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1982. “Chapter 2: A Magnificent Field for Capitalists” and “Chapter 3: The Last Great Trees”

12:30 Lunch with Ron Eller
1:30 The New Appalachia Guest Lecturer: Ron Eller

Eller, Ronald D. Uneven Ground: Appalachia since 1945. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2008. “Chapter 1: “Rich Land, Poor People”

2:30-4:30 Research and work on Individual curriculum projects

TUESDAY, July 19

8:30 Bus leaves for Cradle of Forestry
In 1914 George Vanderbilt’s widow, Edith, sold more than 86,000 acres to the U.S. Government, including the tract that became the Cradle of Forestry in America. This was the nucleus for the Pisgah National Forest, the first National Forest east of the Mississippi. The United States Congress established the Cradle of Forestry in America to commemorate the beginning of forestry and forestry education in America, and to stimulate interest in forests and their management today. Continuing a legacy of forest conservation history, the Cradle of Forestry offers a snap shot of life at America’s first school of Forestry along the Biltmore Campus Trail. We will hear of the devastation left behind by industrial logging and the efforts of Gilbert Pinchot to restore the woods. Outdoor activities include two guided trails which lead to seven historical buildings, a 1915 Climax logging locomotive and an antique portable sawmill.
Lunch and discussion with Cradle of Forestry historian

2:00 Lesson Plans

8:00 APPALACHIA Screening with filmmakers

Week two, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday’s theme is “Standing for the Mountains”. The story of twentieth century Appalachia is the story of a complicated region forging its own distinct identity. From the union battles of the 1920s to the celebration of its rich cultural heritage in music, art and literature, to the enduring environmental and cultural dilemmas of our own time, participants will explore Appalachia’s modern struggles and its connections and implications for the land.

Topics for discussion:
Legacy of resource extraction
Appalachian Identity
Traditions of expression in the mountains—activism and culture


9:00 APPALACHIA: Outside Looking In The Other America: Reporting on Appalachia

Applebome, P. (1999, July 11). “The Nation; For Better and Worse, Poverty’s Poster Child”. New York Times. Retrieved February 2, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/1999/07/11/weekinreview/the-nation-for-better-and-worse-poverty-s-poster-child.html

Other Media:
Fessler, P. (2014). “In Appalachia, poverty is in the eye of the beholder” [Radio series episode]. In Weekend Edition Saturday. New York: Lynn Neary.
Excerpts from:
Christmas in Appalachia with Charles Kuralt, 1965
Another America with Dan Rather, 48 Hours, 1989
American Hollow, HBO documentary dir. by Rory Kennedy, 1999
“A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains”, 20/20 special with Diane Sawyer, 2009

10:15 Reflection and Discussion
11:00 Appalachia: Inside Looking Out,  Appalachian Literature : Appalachians Speak for Themselves: Locklear
Participants will read poems by Appalachian authors that encourage them to think about the ways in which these poets write about place and landscape in literary form. A number of noteworthy poets are from or have written about Buncombe and Henderson counties. These include Ron Rash, Robert Morgan, Michael McFee, Fred Chappell, and Kathryn Stripling Byer. We will read a variety of poems by these authors to investigate how place informs their work. Rash, for example, often references historical events, like the Shelton Laurel Massacre, while writers like Byer focus on the loneliness that can accompany maintaining an isolated mountain farm.

12:30 Lunch
1:30 Lesson Plans and Research
3:00 YMI Guest Lecturer: Darin Waters and the YMI Darin Waters

The Young Men’s Institute (YMI), Commissioned by George Vanderbilt in 1892, is a beautiful, multi-level 18,000 square foot, Tudor-style structure built by and for the several hundred Negro craftsmen who helped construct the Biltmore House. Very quickly, the YMI developed into the center of social, cultural, civic, commercial and religious life for local African-Americans. It offered a kindergarten and gymnasium, and even bathing facilities. Congregations without church buildings worshiped here and Sunday afternoon song services became popular. Between 1926 and 1966, the YMI housed the public library used by the city’s black population. Today, as the most enduring African-America socio- cultural institution in Western North Carolina and as a unifying voice for community concerns, the YMI Cultural Center offers renewed direction and leadership to all whom it services.
Reading: “Child by Tiger” By Thomas Wolfe.


9:00 The role of the Federal Government in 20th Century Appalachia: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee Valley Authority and the Appalachian Regional Commission Pierce, Ross

Dunn, Cade’s Cove Chapter 9 “Death by Eminent Domain”
Eller, Uneven Ground, Chapter 3, “Developing the Poor”

10:30 Mountain Activism: Dr. Helen Lewis

“This institute catalyzed a learning experience where students continue talking, thinking, researching and exploring outside the walls of the classroom.” Power of Place participant

12:00 Lunch with Helen Lewis

1:00-1:45 Discussion and Reflection

2:00-4:00 Lesson Plans


9:00 Lesson Plan Presentation and Discussions—Small Groups

1:00 Discussion and Reflection
Dawn and Ron

2:30 Serena with Ron Rash
Ron Rash, poet, short story writer and novelist, is the Parris Distinguished Professor in Appalachian Cultural Studies at Western Carolina University. His novel, Serena, is centered on newly married George and Serena Pemberton, owners of a logging company in the mountains of North Carolina. Their operation is aimed strictly at maximizing profits, with no regard for either the safety of their workers or the future of the land they’re pillaging. The tragic result of environmental disregard looms large in all of Rash’s fiction, and the Pembertons leave behind a “wasteland of stumps and slash and creeks awash with dead trout.”

Rash, Ron. Serena

3:30 Final Reception