Bigwitch Indian Wisdom Initiative
ᏍᎩᎵᎡᏆᎯ ᎠᏂᏴᏫᏯ ᎠᎦᏙᎲᎢ
Key Participants, Elders,
Delegates & Relatives
Tyson Sampson is a two-hearted and two-spirited individual whom has descended from the local indigenous matriarchy called the ᎠᏂᎩᎶᎯ (A-ni-gi-lo-hi). He grew up in the Bigwitch community and that’s where his roots originate. Tyson has a background in the healing arts and communications. He has been of service in his communities here and beyond for 19+ years. In multi-faceted contributions, he has worked on everything from documenting endangered language, holding mindful awareness/presence, to sharing wild food practices and cultural sensibilities about Cherokee cuisine. He has contributed to efforts for residents of the Qualla Indian Boundary to have more intimate and legally protective relationships to plants/wild foods in this indigenous bio-region. Currently, Tyson is cultivating an apothecary for ethnobotanical accessibility, called Bigwitch Botanicals. He is also developing a broader collective to support traditional ecological knowledge for his fellow tribesfolk, called the Bigwitch Indian Wisdom Initiative ᏍᎩᎵᎡᏆᎯ ᎠᏂᏴᏫᏯ ᎠᎦᏙᎲᎢ.
Amy Walker is a member of the Deer Clan, is a great grandmother, and is 79 years old. Her parents, one Cherokee and one South Dakota Sioux, were both herbalists. She grew up eating out of the Appalachian forests; a wildcrafter and a farmer, she focuses her farming on traditional Cherokee food preferences, mostly growing traditional medicine, corn, beans, and squash. She is a retired social worker, and an indigenous traditionalist. Amy is a pipe carrier and a Sundancer in South Dakota.
Charles E. Taylor originates from the headwaters of the Adams Creek area of Birdtown on the Qualla Indian Boundary. Charles was raised by his traditional ᏣᎳᎩᏱ grandparents. Mr. Taylor has a Master’s Degree in Public Health from UT-Knoxville. He continues to give his service and commitment to a local Asheville Hospital, as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist. Charles shares from a cultural viewpoint that he has lived and learned by the grace of his indigenous grandparents, and the family they created in these mountains which we call home.
Mary Crowe was born and raised in Cherokee, NC, and is a member of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee. Mary was raised in social work with social worker parents, and eventually helped author the Indian Child Welfare Act. In 1993, she began working with the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) and founded the Eastern Cherokee Defense League, an economic, social and environmental organization for the Qualla boundary in 1994. Through IEN, Mary works on a national level with Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, the Climate Justice Alliance, and It Takes Roots. She is on the elders advisory council for Sacred Way Horse Sanctuary in Alabama, serves on the NC Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women Chapter, and is on the review Committee for the Native American Women’s Health Organization Resource Center. She is a former Resident Counselor for the Burgess Emergency Shelter and the Cherokee Children’s Home, Cherokee Boys Club Inc. and a former Case Manager with the Phoenix House Day Therapy Program with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. In between her activism work, she’s a breast cancer survivor, a widow, and has raised three kids. Her children follow in her footsteps as climate and community activists.
Tovah Welch is a member of the wolf clan. She grew up with some cultural teachings, but away from the community. She sees her focus on contemporary Cherokee agriculture and traditional foodways as part of her path back to the community. Tovah hopes to add to the historiography providing more secondary source material to those who come after her and to the EBCI community as a whole.
Cynthia E. Grant is an enrolled EBCI member who hails from the Valley of the Spirit Brothers also called the Painttown community.
Henrietta Sampson is Tyson’s mother and lived during the time whenever the Sampson family still grew and gathered much of the food they ate. She is a living treasure and one of the last remaining matriarchs of her family blood/clan lineage (her mother’s youngest sister Gwendolyn Wildcatt is also alive and well). She is an elder of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Quedi Sampson is a matriarch and mother within the traditional territory of the Qualla Indian Boundary, Cherokee, NC. A reserved and more stoic, but proud member of the EBCI. She is also Tyson’s sister and passes of this sacred lineage to her Daughters and her grandson who is half Mississippi Choctaw.
Tysha Sampson is a fourth generational living matriarch (currently) from the mitochondrial DNA of her Eastern Band’s cultural and heritage roots and the A-NI-GI-LO-HI. It is her generation who can help to turn the four sacred things back into expressed and valued traditional food and lifeways and systems.
Donovan Sampson knows the healing arts and is a very proud EBCI tribal member who embodies a unique history stemming back to the Civil War. His unique lineage is honored within the tribal kinship aspect. His family ties descend from great Owl, which is very auspicious, and his children are of the A-NI-TSI-SGUO-HI (BIRD CLAN). Donovan is the youngest brother to Tyson and Quedi.
Onita Bush is a first language fluent Cherokee language speaker. She is a living treasure within the landscape and scope of Cherokee Tribal Indigenous lifeways and holding our ancient culture together with each prayer, blessing, and presentation that she shares. She originates and dwells in the more isolated township of Snowbird in Graham County, NC. At one time, Onita’s family owned the sacred site now commonly known as one of the last old growth forests in North America. It’s call the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest within the boundaries of the Nantahala National Forest.