Cherokee traditional elder Walker Calhoun, recipient of the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award in 1990 and the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Folk Heritage Award in 1992, passed away on March 28 at age 93.
Born in Big Cove, Calhoun grew up speaking the Cherokee language and learned about Cherokee traditions and dances from his uncle, Will West Long. Some of his knowledge of traditional songs and stories was shared on the recording, Where The Ravens Roost, a reference to the Cherokee name for Big Cove, Kolanvyi or raven place. Calhoun created a traditional dance group, the Raven Rock Dancers with his family in 1998 and helped form the group the Warriors of AniKituhwa in 2002, singing dance songs until he was no longer able to travel with the group for health reasons. He helped teach Cherokee language classes at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian starting in 2003.
“Walker Calhoun was a keeper of ancient Cherokee traditions,” said Wayne Martin, folklife director of the N.C. Arts Council. “He was instrumental in preserving the Cherokee language and revitalized some of the oldest and most revered music and dance traditions of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. His life’s work to pass on traditional knowledge to younger generations is a precious legacy for all North Carolinians.”
Calhoun was a consultant for the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. prior to its opening in 2004. His other honors included the 1998 Sequoyah Award from the Eastern Band and Cherokee Nation and the 2004 Mountain Heritage Award.