ELDER: EBCI Beloved Man Jerry Wolfe, shown at the Tri-Council
meeting at Red Clay, Tenn. on Aug. 28, 2015, is set to receive
an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Western
Carolina University. During the Tri-Council meeting, he encouraged
everyone to help save the Cherokee language. "Our true identity
is our language. We must save our language and teach the youth
coming along." (Scott McKie B.P./One Feather)
He is a U.S. Navy veteran from World War II, a Cherokee historian
and storyteller, an Indian ballgame caller, a Cherokee first language
speaker, and soon he will be a doctor. EBCI Beloved Man Jerry Wolfe
is set to receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters
from Western Carolina University during their spring commencement
ceremony on Saturday, May 6 at 10am in the WCU Ramsey Regional Activity
"The degree is being conferred in recognition of your lifetime
of service and support to the western North Carolina region, the
state, and the nation," Claire Collins, WCU assistant to the chancellor,
wrote in a letter to Wolfe. "Your distinguished service of sharing
the Cherokee language and traditions is clear testimony to the appropriateness
of this recognition."
When asked his reaction to learning about the honor forthcoming
from WCU, Wolfe, true to form, commented, "Well, it surprised me."
He said he is looking forward to walking across the stage with
his graduation hat on. "I feel like I have done what was asked of
me, nothing special. I was taught that when people ask things of
you, and you are able, you help them out. But, I am happy that other
people feel I have helped and made a difference."
Wolfe was given the title of Beloved Man of the Eastern Band
of Cherokee Indians on April 11, 2013. It was a designation that
hadn't been made to a man since the early 1800s.
On that day, EBCI Beloved Woman Myrtle Driver spoke of Wolfe's
importance to the Tribe, "Oftentimes, we may come across a word
that we don't remember or we need to know something about our history
or our culture, and we can always go to Jerry, and he is always
more than willing to help us. And, I really do appreciate all that
Jerry Wolfe has given us."
Wolfe has been honored by many organizations and has received
many honors over the years for his cultural knowledge and services
to others. In 2003, he received the North Carolina Folk Heritage
Award and in 2010, he received the Brown-Hudson Folklore Award from
the North Carolina Folklore Society. In 2013, he received the Patriot
Award from the Civilian Marksmanship Program for his service in
World War II which included participation in the Normandy Invasion.
Wolfe has been asked to open countless events with a prayer
and words of encouragement none more poignant than those
he spoke on Aug. 28, 2015 at a Tri-Council meeting held at Red Clay,
Tenn. in which he said, "Our true identity is our language. We must
save our language and teach the youth coming along."