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Indigenous Appalachia

This fall, West Virginia University’s Downtown Library will host “Indigenous Appalachia,” an exhibit designed to increase awareness of the contributions of Indigenous Appalachians to the region’s shared history and present while also recognizing continuing injustices faced by Indigenous people.   

“Most Americans do not know about Indigenous culture, from history to today, but they are a large part of America’s fabric. Invisibility is a modern form of bias,” WVU Libraries Exhibits Coordinator Sally Brown said. “With this exhibit, we hope to both acknowledge the contradictions in the Indigenous histories of our areas and in our collections, and highlight Indigenous stories, perspectives and successes, all curated in collaboration with Indigenous advisement.” 

Desert Landscape with light effect

Horizon Sky, part of Amelia Winger-Bearskin's SkyWorld/CloudWorld series  

“Indigenous Appalachia” will remain on exhibit through May 2023. WVU Art in the Libraries will hold a launch event on Nov. 14 featuring Joe Stahlman, director, Seneca-Iroquois National Museum, assistant research professor, Dept. of Anthropology, University at Buffalo; and Maryam Marne Zafar, visual strategist and graphic designer. 

Through visuals and educational content, the exhibit will explore themes of people, lands and waters, and will provide significant opportunity for campus and community involvement via coursework and programming, and encourage informed, enhanced perspectives. As our nation and the University proceed in acknowledging the erasure of much of Indigenous history, it is understood that a reconciliation of this erasure can only be accomplished with Indigenous scholars’ leadership, guidance, and participation informing these new perspectives.  

“Most Americans do not know about Indigenous culture, from history to today, but they are a large part of America’s fabric. Invisibility is a modern form of bias.” Sally Brow – WVU LIBRARIES EXHIBITS COORDINATOR 

This exhibit is intentionally curated with the expertise and contribution of Indigenous Appalachians alongside scholars of Native American Studies.  

The content of the exhibit includes exploration of the following themes:  

  • Discussion of the complexities involved in public discussions and portrayals of Indigenous cultures and histories, especially in consideration of European colonial history, U.S. policies, and social forces; these include centuries of genocidal acts  
  • Acknowledgement of WVU Libraries' Indigenous related holdings 
  • Indigenous People in Appalachia Today and their ancestry  
  • Indigenous Place Names in West Virginia 
  • Contemporary Indigenous Appalachian perspectives through creative work. Confirmed artists: Nadema Agard (painting, Cherokee), Connor Alexander (game design, Cherokee), Erin Lee Antonak (sculpture/drawing, Oneida), Kayln Barnoski (fabric/mixed media, Cherokee), April Branham (painting/photography, Monacan), Ethan Brown (gourd design/painting, Pamunkey), Annette Clapsaddle (writing, Cherokee), Robert D’Alimonte (woodworking/carving, Tuscarora), Brent Michael Davids (composing/music, Mohican/Munsee-Lenape), John Gritts (drawing/painting, Cherokee), Benjamin Harjo, Jr. (drawing/painting, Absentee Shawnee), Yonavea Hawkins (bead/fashion, Delaware), Antoinette (Toni) Scott (cornhusk dolls, Seneca), Rosy Simas (transdisciplinary art/dance, Seneca), Amelia Winger-Bearskin (NFT/digital, Seneca-Cayuga). 

With the WVU Native American Studies program and WVU Humanities Center, WVU Libraries will develop course related, public programs and resources. 

The exhibit will also become a digital exhibit living on the WVU Libraries' website  and archived on The Research Repository at WVU.  

“Indigenous Appalachia” will travel to WVU Beckley Campus Library from June-December 2023; Appalachian State University Library from January-July 2024; and Marshall University Library from August-December 2024. 

If you have any questions, contact Sally Brown   

Abstract painting

Abstract, Painting, 1968, by John Gritts. Courtesy, John Gritts

Scholarly Consultants 

  • Joe Stahlman  – Director, Seneca-Iroquois National Museum; Assistant Research Professor, Dept. of Anthropology, University at Buffalo 
  • Bonnie Brown  – Coordinator and Teaching Instructor, WVU Native American Studies Program 
  • Beth Toren  – Interdisciplinary, Cultural and Film Studies Librarian, WVU Libraries 
  • Michael Sherwin  – Associate Professor and Coordinator of Photography, WVU College of Creative Arts 
  • Richard Anderson  – Senior Executive Assistant to the President, WVU Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 
  • Maryam Marne Zafar  –  Visual Strategist, Graphic Designer 


  • Platinum Sponsors: WV Humanities Council, WVU Humanities Center, WVU Office of Provost and The Antero Foundation. 
  • Gold Sponsors: Oakland Foundation and Morgantown Printing & Binding. 
  • Silver Sponsors: Marshall University Libraries, Appalachian State University Libraries and WV Library Commission. 

WVU Land Acknowledgement  

WVU, with its statewide institutional presence, resides on land that includes ancestral territories of the Shawnee, Lenape (or Delaware), Cherokee, and Haudenosaunee (or Iroquois--the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, Tuscarora), and other Indigenous peoples. 

Cover photo:  Creation Story, Erin Lee Antonak, acrylic and charcoal