Swimmer's family members, standing around her, laugh as she
cracks a joke during her remarks following Tribal Council's
decision to name her a Beloved Woman. Holly Kays photo
A lifelong potter, storyteller and keeper of Cherokee traditions,
97-year-old Amanda Sequoyah Swimmer was given the Eastern Band of
Cherokee Indians' highest honor last week when Tribal Council named
her a Beloved Woman.
"I don't think there's anybody more deserving of this award
who's had an effect on this tribe not only her, but her family,
her children and the legacy," said Councilmember Perry Shell, of
Big Cove, which is Swimmer's community.
Born Oct. 7, 1921, on the Qualla Boundary, Swimmer is the mother
of 10, grandmother of 22, great-grandmother of 41 and great-great-grandmother
She demonstrated pottery making at the Oconaluftee Indian Village
for more than 50 years, volunteered in Cherokee's middle and elementary
schools teaching pottery and has won many awards for her work, which
is on display in North Carolina, Washington, D.C., and New Mexico.
She won the N.C. Heritage Award in 1994, the Mountain Heritage
Award in 2009 and was granted an honorary doctorate from the University
of North Carolina Asheville in 2005.
Swimmer has also invested heavily in Cherokee children, serving
as a foster grandparent for 20 years, in which capacity she spent
time with daycare-age children, telling them stories and singing
"All that explains everything, why she deserves this award and
this honor," said Councilmember Richard French, of Big Cove, who
submitted the resolution, after the list of accomplishments was
Swimmer, surrounded by family, approached the podium to offer
her thanks to Tribal Council.
"Thank you for bringing me up here just to look at my ugly face,"
she said, eliciting laughter from the crowd.
"I've got a whole bunch of grandchildren," she continued. "There's
one right there, about 2,000 more somewhere."
Laughter rippled through the room one more time before Swimmer
continued on a more serious note, offering her best advice to Tribal
"Do the right thing that you should do for the people," she
told councilmembers. "Put the Lord first in everything you do. Don't
leave him out. He's going to show you what you have to do. He showed
me many times, and he's in my heart."
Swimmer concluded by offering council a prayer in the Cherokee
language, with her family then surrounding her for a series of photos
to celebrate the joyful event.
The list of Beloved Women is a short one, and the list of living
Beloved Women is even shorter. Swimmer is now the third living Beloved
Woman, joined by Myrtle Driver and Ella Bird. The last person named
Beloved Woman was Shirley Oswalt, in 2017. Oswalt has since passed
away from cancer.
The tribe also has two living Beloved Men Jerry Wolfe,
who was given the title in 2013, and Robert Standingdeer, given
the title last month.