Holly Kays

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Joel Sartore lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, but he — and his camera — are constantly on the move.

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“Extraordinary” inflation and the need to match state salary increases will prompt increases to the cost of attendance at Western Carolina University next year, according to the 2023-2024 schedule of tuition and fees the Board of Trustees adopted at their Dec. 2 meeting. 

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Shortly after the 1835 Christmas holiday celebrating peace and good will toward men, U.S. government officials met with a group of 500 Cherokee leaders at New Echota, Georgia, and signed a treaty that led to the tribe’s cruel eviction via the Trail of Tears.

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New data from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis show that 2021 was a year of growth for the outdoor economy in North Carolina — but that the industry is still working to make up ground it lost during the pandemic. 

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Tribal members Lavita Hill and Mary Crowe have received an Attorney General’s Dogwood Award from N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein for their work to restore the traditional Cherokee name to Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

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On Thursday, Dec. 15, Cherokee voters will head to the polls for a special election that will seat two new representatives on the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council.

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A wildfire reported Wednesday, Nov. 23, in the Harmon Den area of Haywood County was still burning with no containment as of Monday, Nov. 28, estimated at 150 acres.

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Twenty-two years ago, Janet Hensley, now 59, was working in guest services at a new hotel in her hometown of Erwin, Tennessee.

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As voting hours ended on Election Day 2020, talking heads waiting for results to roll in filled the TV airwaves with speculation based on the exit polling data before them. What might it mean for the final results, and for the future of the American presidency?

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After months of discussion and deliberation, Mainspring Conservation Trust and Northbrook Carolina Hydro II have signed an agreement allowing Mainspring to purchase the aging Ela Dam in Swain County — paving the way for dam removal efforts to progress.

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In a unanimous vote during Annual Council Monday, Oct. 24, the Cherokee Tribal Council passed an ordinance to strengthen the tribe’s ability to enforce its banishment rules. It’s been refining the legislation since March and discussing the topic for much longer.

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The Cherokee Indian Police Department is seeking information about the whereabouts of Kyria Neal Swayney, a 16-year-old girl who was last seen Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Swayney is five-foot-seven and weighs about 140 pounds. The CIPD has classifies her case as a runaway case. Call 828.497.4131 with information.  

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The Cherokee community is mourning the death of Kobe Toineeta, 25, who died by homicide Friday, Nov. 11. 

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Voters in Cherokee’s Dec. 15 special election will choose from a crowded field of candidates seeking to fill two unexpected vacancies on Tribal Council.

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Sept. 27, 2021, was a day of constant phone calls and email notifications for Brendan Davey, regional supervisor at the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality office in Asheville.

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Sometime around 1940, a red spruce seedling pushed above the forest floor in southern Haywood County. Its roots drank from the moist soil, and each year the tree grew taller and stronger.

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This fall, Western Carolina University will launch a pilot program that guarantees undergraduate students up to $3,000 per year in scholarships over the course of their four-year college career. Called Catamount Commitment, the program is a repackaging of Western’s existing scholarship resources that aims to help students and their parents better count the cost of college before enrolling.

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The Cherokee Tribal Council allocated an additional $1.38 million to Cherokee Central Schools during an Oct. 24 Annual Council session, increasing the school system’s minimum wage to $15 per hour and giving employees a cost-of-living increase.

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During an Oct. 17 Annual Council meeting, the Cherokee Tribal Council approved an ordinance that strengthens ethics laws for tribal officials — but struck a proposed change that would have restricted their activity for a year after leaving office.

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The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is a key partner in a $55 million effort to bring the state’s first track dedicated to quarterhorse racing to a 200-acre property outside of Ashland, Kentucky, with a groundbreaking ceremony held Friday, Oct. 28.

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Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Rob Saunooke is banned from practicing law on the Qualla Boundary. While Judge Sharon Barrett did issue a March 2018 ruling preventing him from practicing law on tribal lands unless specifically permitted by a court order, the Cherokee Supreme Court later vacated Barrett’s order.

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When Cheryl Hillis started managing vacation rentals in Haywood County 15 years ago, Airbnb didn’t exist, reservations were made with phone calls and mailed checks, and she lived nowhere near Western North Carolina. Hillis was the face of Buffalo Creek Vacations, but she took reservations and managed payments from whichever town her military husband and their four boys lived at the time.

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During Annual Council Oct. 24, Tribal Council approved “Project Coda,” a $324 million effort to control “a brand recognized worldwide” and invest in multiple resorts to be developed across the country.

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In a unanimous vote Monday, Oct. 17, the Cherokee Tribal Council passed an ordinance that prohibits begging and panhandling in a variety of locations and situations on the Qualla Boundary.

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Former Tribal Council Rep. Dennis Edward “Bill” Taylor is now facing a fourth charge in the domestic violence case that spurred his Oct. 16 resignation from office representing Wolfetown and Big Y.

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Bo Crowe, a fifth-term Tribal Council member representing Wolfetown and Big Y, has announced his intention to challenge Principal Chief Richard Sneed’s 2023 re-election bid.

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The Oct. 20 death of Lambert Wilson — a beloved educator, business owner and supporter of Native American art — sent shock waves through communities across Western North Carolina. However, few details are available regarding the circumstances of what his friends and colleagues say was a tragic and unexpected passing.

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More than 130 people from 25 Western North Carolina counties met in Boone last month to talk about how best to build the region’s outdoor economy — and over the next two years, that conversation will continue. Building Outdoor Communities, a program from Made By Mountains, aims to help individual communities foster collaboration and expertise to meet their outdoor economy goals.  

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Following a 90-minute closed session discussion Monday, Oct. 24, the Cherokee Tribal Council voted to allocate an additional $55 million to Kituwah LLC for projects that CEO Mark Hubble promised would yield an immediate return.

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Focused on cleaning up her inbox, Sara Stanley, a May graduate from Western Carolina University’s journalism program, was about to delete the email from the Society of Professional Journalists when she noticed her name in the preview.

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After nearly a century in operation, years of inspiring trepidation at winter’s approach and $33 million from the state legislature, Western Carolina University’s antique steam plant is approaching its final retirement. In a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, Oct. 21, about 100 people gathered to celebrate completion of the new facility, which is expected to come online in the next month or so.

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A special election Thursday, Dec. 15, will seat new Tribal Council members to fill vacancies left by the death of Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke and the resignation of Wolfetown Rep. Bill Taylor, Tribal Council decided during Annual Council Monday, Oct. 24.

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A woman is facing five federal charges stemming from two alleged incidents of sexual abuse of a minor on tribal lands. 

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In January 2020, Sara Duncan was less than a year into her role as an assistant professor at Western Carolina University’s School of Health Sciences when she started talking to Lisa Lefler, director of WCU’s Culturally Based Native Health Program, about opportunities for kids to get involved in Cherokee science.

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During a special called meeting Thursday, Sept. 29, the Cherokee Tribal Council passed an update to the tribe’s election ordinance that gets rid of term limits for executive offices and makes absentee voting available to all tribal members, regardless of residence or employment.

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Wolfetown Rep. Dennis Edward “Bill” Taylor has resigned his seat on Tribal Council following an Oct. 6 incident that led to a trio of criminal charges and a domestic violence protective order.

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The sun was still high in the sky on a perfect October day last fall when I finished setting up my campsite in the Chattahoochee National Forest outside Helen, Georgia. Wandering through the woods to explore my new surroundings, I came to a sudden halt at the sight of an enormous spider, perched in the center of a giant web stretched across my path.

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Mary Smith Sneed was just four or five years old the day a wagon rolled up as she played outside near the family home at Mingo Falls. The wagon stopped, and a Cherokee man named John Crowe greeted her. Crowe, who also happened to be a truant officer employed by the Cherokee Boarding School, invited her to get in the wagon.

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Just four days after the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ election season officially began, Principal Chief Richard Sneed announced his intention to seek re-election.

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Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke, 82, passed away on Sunday, Oct. 9, in the midst of her 12th consecutive term on the Cherokee Tribal Council.

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When Europeans first began exploring North America, they knew precious little about the land toward which they traveled — or what they’d find to eat once they arrived.

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One day after the seven-year anniversary of the Valley River Casino’s grand opening just outside of Murphy, tribal officials and casino executives gathered under a bluebird sky Thursday, Sept. 29, to break ground on an expansion project whose budget is more than double that of the initial construction.

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National Public Lands Day dawned crisp and cool Saturday, Sept. 24, a celebration of everything most beloved about fall in Western North Carolina — sunrise pinks and oranges streaking the skies above the ridgeline; clear, dry air carrying an invigorating early-morning chill; bright sunshine focusing the world beneath warm rays as the sky brightened, revealing mountainsides tinged with hints of red and yellow, rogue branches overly eager for the autumnal wardrobe change.

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Aiás Magitas, a 20-year-old forensic anthropology student from Charlotte, had been working the guest services desk at Western Carolina University’s A.K. Hinds University Center for nearly two years when he got a “vague” text from his boss around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 30. He wanted Magitas to come in and talk, and Magitas was pretty sure he knew what it was about.

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Starting in March, members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians may have the chance to sign up for a program that will let them receive casino distributions without reporting them as income on federal taxes.

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It was a chilly February morning in 2020 when Clemson, South Carolina, resident Heyward Douglass laid eyes on the legendary monarch butterfly wintering grounds, first discovered only 45 years before. Oyamel fir trees covered the south-facing slopes of the Neovolcanic Mountains west of Mexico City, and millions of monarch butterflies covered the fir trees, 8,000 to 10,000 feet above sea level.

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Faculty and staff at Western Carolina University have been seeing higher paychecks since July following the N.C. General Assembly’s passage of a budget that includes an across-the-board raise of 3.5%. Coupled with the 2.5% raise included in the previous budget enacted Nov. 18, 2021, that’s a 6% increase in less than a year.

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Term limits could be on the chopping block in Cherokee’s updated election ordinance due to legal advice arguing that the current law, which restricts chiefs and vice chiefs to two consecutive four-year terms, conflicts with the tribe’s Charter and Governing Document.

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A car rolls up the gravel driveway to the barn that serves as the main headquarters for KT’s Orchard and Apiary in Canton, and Kathy Taylor — better known by her initials, KT — drops what she’s doing to greet the new visitor.

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Navigating the darkened exhibit halls at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian is slow work on Wednesday evening, Sept. 7. Cherokee people — many wearing traditional ribbon skirts and beadwork — throng the halls, cluster around exhibit cases, and point proudly at the displays of brightly colored artwork that pop alongside the neutral color palette of the archeological objects surrounding them.

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