CAMPBELL COUNTY, Tenn. — A resolution that lends symbolic support to an effort to restore the name, "Kuwohi," to a mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains passed the Campbell County Commission unanimously on Monday.
The effort to restore the name started on July 14, 2022, when the Tribal Council of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians declared they intended to petition the federal government to consider it. Kuwohi is the name of the "Clingmans Dome" mountain for the Cherokee community.
"Clingmans Dome" was named after Thomas Clingmans who was a U.S. Senator and a commander for the Confederate Army. He spent part of his career studying the height of the mountain. Now, the Cherokee's goal is to restore to its original name but not everyone is in favor of the restoration.
For thousands of years before the name change, the Cherokee people called the mountain Kuwohi, which means "mulberry place." It is the type of fruit grown there. Cherokee leaders previously said it was a spiritual and sacred place for the community, which provided food and shelter.
It was also a place of refuge during the Trail of Tears. Thousands of Native Americans across Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Florida were pushed west out of their homes as part of that march. The National Library of Medicine estimates that 6,000 men, women and children died on the 1,200-mile march and around 17,000 people were forcibly removed.
Families were separated and people were only given moments to collect possessions before being forced to leave at gunpoint. After Cherokee people were forced to leave, looters followed and ransacked their homesteads.
In order to restore the name of Kuwohi, the tribe needs to gather local support to boost the effectiveness of its petition. The final decision will come from the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.
Knox County previously approved a similar resolution, lending symbolic support to the petition. At least two counties in North Carolina have also supported the effort.
Tyler King, the 5th District County Commissioner, released a statement about Campbell County's resolution. It is available below.
"I’m happy to sponsor this resolution to restore the name of Clingmans Dome back to its original name of “Kuwohi”. Someone asked me, “are they trying to erase history by changing the name?”, and actually, it’s the complete opposite. They’re wanting to restore it to its original name. I love the history of the Smoky Mountains, and the fact that Cherokee Indians were the first settlers in Campbell County, so what better way to pay homage to our past and support our friends at the same time? Our vote alone won’t change the name. Our vote is simply a vote of support. When the federal government takes up a vote, they will take into consideration the amount of support shown by surrounding areas. So far, we are only the second county in Tennessee to take up a vote in support of this resolution. (Knox County was the first) I’m hoping more counties in Tennessee follow suit and join us."