2015 Awards


Since 1975, the MOUNTAIN HERITAGE CENTER (MHC) of Western Carolina University has demonstrated a commitment to community engagement and service to the region through its celebration of cultural heritage, educational efforts,  research and Mountain Heritage Day Festival.

Over the last 40 years the MHC has curated a collection of 10,000 artifacts that pertain to the history, natural history and culture of the region. This collection benefits research and award winning exhibitions put together by staff and WCU students.

Through lectures, workshops, special events, concerts, craft demonstrations and free or low cost programming, the Center actively creates opportunities for community members to engage with past and present community tradition. Significant parts of the MHC’s collections are now available online through partnerships with Hunter Library Digital Initiatives, the National Quilt Index and DigitalHeritage.org. The center continues to produce and digitize audio recordings and videos documenting local culture.

In collaboration with WCU departments and local communities, the MHC hosts the annual Mountain Heritage Day. Regional artists, performers and demonstrators introduce Appalachian arts and culture to visitors. Local residents actively participate in the celebration and interpretation of their heritage and benefit from the economic impact of the event. This year marks the 41st Anniversary of the festival.

The GOINGS FAMILY, accomplished professional artisans committed to preserving Cherokee traditions, have demonstrated a lifelong commitment to traditional crafts. Their passion for Cherokee craft and culture is seen in their work and commitment to passing on craft traditions through community education efforts.  The family’s commitment to traditional crafts has persisted through generations.

Louise Goings demonstrating white oak basket weaving for a Western Carolina University folklore class. Photo by Anna Fariello

Louise Goings demonstrating white oak basket weaving for a Western Carolina University folklore class. Photo by Anna Fariello

Louise Goings  is a versatile basket weaver. With the guidance of her mother, Emma Taylor, herself an award winning weaver of Cherokee baskets, Louise Taylor Goings started weaving baskets at the age of 10.  Her mastery of the craft has taken her to the Festival of American Folklife at the Smithsonian Institute and the Natural History Museum of the Smithsonian where she’s demonstrated her process. In the early 1960s, she was accepted as a member of the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual artisan guild. In 1992, she and her husband George were invited to Washington DC for President Clinton’s inaugural celebration of southern craft, where they were honored with other southern craftsmen and women. She’s also an active member of the community; Louise Goings regularly demonstrates basket making in schools, at Western Carolina University, at the Mountain Heritage Day festival, and at the Cherokee Voices Festival.

Her husband, George “Butch” Goings, a talented woodcarver, was born on Owl Branch in the Yellowhill community of the Qualla boundary. As a high school student he learned to carve animal figures in both wood and stone under the tutelage of Amanda Crowe. He works with alabaster, pipestone and soapstone, as well as walnut, cherry, buckeye and holly. He is a member of the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, has demonstrated at the North Carolina State Fair and on the PBS series The Woodwright’s Shop. George Goings also teaches woodworking classes and has served on the Qualla Arts and Crafts board of directors.


Jackson County North Carolina’s BILL CRAWFORD has received the Brown-Hudson Folklore Award for his work as a folklore researcher and genealogist. Crawford documents cemetery decoration traditions in Southern Appalachia and volunteers for and attends cemetery decorations throughout the region. These events bring community members together to honor and remember deceased neighbors and friends, and Crawford firmly believes cemetery traditions celebrate the character and contributions of local people. He served as the primary consultant for Alan Jabbour and Karen Singer Jabbour’s “Decoration Day in the Mountains” (UNC Press/2010), an in depth

Bill Crawford assisting Parks and Recreation manager Jennifer Bennett in identifying plants along the Jackson County Greenway. Photo by Anna Fariello

Bill Crawford assisting Parks and Recreation manager Jennifer Bennett in identifying plants along the Jackson County Greenway.
Photo by Anna Fariello

exploration of the little-known cemetery decoration traditions.

As a genealogist, Crawford has also provided his community the opportunity to understand and document their personal history. In 1991 he co-founded the Jackson County Genealogical Society and currently serves as the vice president of the organization. He has contributed to several of the society’s publications, and his comprehensive knowledge of local people and history make him an invaluable asset to both newcomers and long-time residents alike.

Fiddler ROGER HOWELL of Madison County, N.C. received the Brown-Hudson Folklore Award for his work preserving and celebrating regional music traditions. Howell strives to document both the sonic and cultural aspects of the Appalachian music landscape. He spent years working on the “Memory Collection,” a compilation of 532 fiddle tunes, folk stories, and tributes to master musicians. The collection is housed at Mars Hill University’s Southern Appalachian Archives and will eventually be available online for public use.

Howell is also an integral component of jam circles throughout Western North Carolina. During these sessions he mentors and teaches younger musicians and often repairs and restores others’ instruments. Additionally, Howell performs regularly at festivals throughout the region and this year was awarded the “Fiddler of the Festival” at the Fiddler’s Grove Festival. His musical career and folkloric pursuits are the subject of an upcoming documentary film project that will premiere at the “Minstrel of Appalachia” festival on October 3, 2015

Anthropology professor and folklorist PHILIP E. (TED) COYLE of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C. has been awarded the Brown-Hudson Folklore Award for his dedication to North Carolina folk culture through scholarship, teaching, fieldwork, and direct service. From 2001-2009, Coyle did ethnographic work for the National Park Services; his oral history interviews and assessments feature tradition bearers from along the Parkway and around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The materials have influenced the management of traditional cultural landscapes in the area. Earlier in his career he also spent time in Mexico conducting research with the Cora (Náyari) people of the Sierra Madre Occidental. His book “Náyari History, Politics, and Violence” (University of Arizona Press/ 2001) documents the intricate relationship between religious practices and political authority. Coyle also takes this dedication and enthusiasm for participatory scholarship into the classroom and is a well-loved professor. He encourages students to immerse themselves in the region; he organizes field trips to historical sites and facilitates his students’ contributions to ethnographic and folkloric efforts in the state.

Coyle has also been an invaluable member of the North Carolina Folklore Society for more than 15 years. For eight years he served as the editor for the society’s flagship publication, the North Carolina Folklore Journal. During his tenure the journal featured a wide variety of subjects, traditions, and authors. In his last year as an editor he also published a comprehensive 15-year index of the publication.

Cherokee language instructor TOM BELT of Western Carolina University has been awarded the Brown-Hudson Folklore Award for his dedication to Cherokee language revitalization through advocacy, teaching, and grassroots organizing.

Tom Belt  Photo by Anna Fariello

Tom Belt
Photo by Anna Fariello

There are less than 300 speakers who grew up with Cherokee as their first language, and Belt meets regularly with elders of this generation to learn the nuances of the language. He then incorporates such subtleties into his teaching of students across the age spectrum, ranging from college aged students at WCU to Preschool through elementary-age students at the New Kituwah Academy, the Cherokee’s language immersion program. He also works with a Cherokee language consortium to expand new words, like computer, into the vocabulary.

Belt, a member of the Cherokee Nation and native speaker of the language, is believes language is integral to group identity and that it carries cultural perspective and cultural thought essential for a group to understand and express its past, present and future.