KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council is slated to discuss a resolution that, if passed, will begin the tribe’s process of petitioning the federal government to restore the name, “Kuwahi” to the mountain currently known as Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The resolution is part of the Tribal Council’s July 14 meeting agenda. Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Smokies and the observation tower, built in 1959, offers visitors to the summit 360° views of the Smokies. Historically, the summit is a sacred place for the Cherokee.

In the agenda resolution item, the Tribal Council describes Kuwahi, a Cherokee word meaning “mulberry place,” as having “a special significance to us as Cherokees, as it was visited by medicine people who prayed and sought guidance from the Creator regarding important matters facing our people, and then returned to our towns to give guidance and advice.”

“Kuwahi is also well documented in oral teachings of our stories; for example, the Bears used to meet in council under Kuwahi and Kuwahi is also a place where many of our ancestors were forced to go to avoid being taken away from our homes during removal [Trail of Tears] and therefore has unique cultural and historical significance to us.”

The National Park Service website currently does not mention the Cherokee people on its page about Clingmans Dome; however, the Cherokee language is mentioned in its 2012 YouTube video about the mountain that is linked on the page.

The mountain was renamed after Confederate General Thomas Lanier Clingman, who is said to be the first person to accurately measure the peak’s elevation. The eastern Cherokee see this history from another perspective.

“Thomas Clingman was a United States senator who represented North Carolina, who lived away from our Cherokee lands, and had no substantial ties to Cherokee people,” the Tribal Council’s name change resolution states. “In 1859, a European-born geographer and professor named Arnold Guyot was surveying our mountains, and in doing so, he was responsible for the renaming of Kuwahi to ‘Clingmans Dome’ on the official maps of the United States government.”

The resolution goes on to state how the renaming of the mountain to Clingmans Dome was racist and should be corrected, due to Clingman’s ties to the Confederacy and his arguing against anti-slavery efforts on the Senate floor in January 1860 and Guyot’s ties to “scientific racism.”

“The history of the renaming of Kuwahi to ‘Clingmans Dome’ shows that… action was disrespectful to Cherokee people, culture, history, and tradition.”

There is precedent in the U.S. for reinstituting Indigenous names for sacred spaces and mountains; for example, Denali in Alaska.

This is a developing story. Download the WATE 6 News app to get updates sent to your phone.

There are many ways to learn more about Native Americans and local tribes in the East Tennessee-North Carolina region. Events are often organized by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, which is based in the region, as well as at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian – which offers a vivid experience of the 11,000-year-old Cherokee story. The Sequoyah Birthplace Museum in Vonore is also a way to learn about the Cherokee Syllabary, the written Cherokee language that was invented in 1821.