Sounds of Tohi: Cherokee Health and Well-Being in Southern Appalachia (Contemporary American Indian Studies) (Hardcover)
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Dialogue between a medical anthropologist and a Cherokee linguist about health, well-being, and environmental issues
Sounds of Tohi: Cherokee Health and Well-Being in Southern Appalachia is the result of almost two decades of work by medical anthropologist Lisa J. Lefler and Cherokee elder and traditionalist Thomas N. Belt. The narrative consists of a dialogue between them that displays traditional Indigenous knowledge as well as the importance of place for two people from cultures and histories that intersect in the mountains of Southern Appalachia. Together, Lefler and Belt decolonize thinking about health, well-being, and environmental issues through the language and experiences of people whose identity is inextricably linked to the mountains and landscape of western North Carolina.
Lefler and Belt discuss several critical cultural concepts that explain the science of relationships with this world, with the spirit world, and with people. They explore tohi, the Cherokee concept of health, which offers a more pervasive understanding of relationships in life as balanced and moving forward in a good way. They converse about the importance of matrilineality, particularly in light of community healing, the epistemologies of Cherokee cosmography, and decolonizing counseling approaches.
The discussions here offer a different way of approaching the issues that face Americans in this difficult time of division. Lefler and Belt share their urgency to take action against the wholesale exploitation of public lands and the shared environment, to work to perpetuate tribal languages, to preserve the science that can make a difference in how people treat one another, and to create more forums that are inclusive of Native and marginalized voices and that promote respect and appreciation of one another and the protection of sacred places. Throughout, they rely on the preservation of traditional knowledge, or Native science, via Native language to provide insight as to why people should recognize a connection to the land.
About the Author
Lisa J. Lefler is director of the Culturally-Based Native Health Program at Western Carolina University and also founder and former executive director of the Center for Native Health. She is editor of Anthropology: Weaving Our Discipline with Community, Under the Rattlesnake: Cherokee Health and Resiliency, and Southern Foodways and Culture: Local Considerations and Beyond and coeditor of Southern Indians and Anthropologists: Culture, Politics, and Identity.
Thomas N. Belt is a retired coordinator of Western Carolina University’s program in Cherokee language and recipient of an honorary doctorate degree from Western Carolina University and a national honor for service from the Cherokee Nation. He is cofounder of the annual Rooted in the Mountains Symposium.
“Lefler and Belt offer timely and much-needed insights into health and healing that center Indigenous knowledge and language, the importance of community, and the sacredness of the land and all life. It is a valuable contribution that will no doubt inform scholars and practitioners in the areas of mental health, environmental ethics, and, of course, Cherokee studies.”
—Clint Carroll, author of Roots of Our Renewal: Ethnobotany and Cherokee Environmental Governance
“The authors creatively capture the essence of deep dialogue, language, continuity, and resonance of many people as they explore Cherokee and Appalachian relationships to the land as a basis of good health and healing. Through the lens of tohi, a traditional view of Cherokee health and well-being, they explore Indigenous epistemology, cosmography, counseling, traditional knowledge, decolonization, and the essential role of women in Cherokee and Indigenous society. They espouse a return to a life-, community-, and place-centered view of health based on our relationship to land and the wisdom of our collective ancestors, the creative reimagining of ourselves, and deep attention to the voices of our children. I am aware of only a handful of other books that explore this multifaceted question in such a creative way.”
—Gregory A. Cajete, author of Indigenous Community: Rekindling the Teachings of the Seventh Fire
“Lisa Lefler and Tom Belt provide a warm and engaging exploration of the factors that contribute to the health and well-being of Cherokee people living in Southern Appalachia. This book is well suited for anyone interested in working in this community or who wants to expand their understanding of the issues that influence a Native community’s approach and conceptualization of health and wellness.”
—Ronny A. Bell, coeditor of Public Health Nutrition: Rural, Urban, and Global Community-Based Practice
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