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Words—and tribal location—matter to citizen of Cherokee Nation

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(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)
CHEROKEE, NC - MAY 11: A Native American poses for pictures along the highway on May 11, 2018 in Cherokee, North Carolina. Located near the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the North Carolina side of the Appalachian Mountains, and at the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the region is home to the Cherokee Nation band of Indians.

For Ellen Cushman, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Native American heritage is about perseverance. 

“A heritage of perseverance is common across many indigenous peoples,” Cushman says. “We want to make visible and help people understand that we persevere.”

Given the historical wounds of settlement, displacement, and erasure, Native Americans’ perseverance can vary depending on where they live in relation to where their tribes are located, whether they were removed from their ancestral lands, how many times they were removed, and whether they had boarding school experiences, Cushman says. Native language persistence plays a big role in the Native peoples’ endurance, as well. 

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