What is the Sacred Fire Project?


Renowned metalsmith William Rogers along with Nathan Bush and JR Wolfe (both of whom are EBCI enrolled members) worked together to complete the metalwork for the “Sacred Fire Courtyard” – a plan to turn an unused courtyard on campus into a culturally-succinct area for employees with the help and support of the Cherokee Preservation Foundation! The Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority celebrated the completion of the project with a dedication ceremony of the new Sacred Fire Courtyard on Friday, December 8, 2023.

The Sacred Fire Project emerges as a visionary endeavor to convert an underutilized courtyard on the hospital’s campus into a culturally rich and meaningful space for both employees and patients. At its core is a captivating copper masterpiece, promising to be an awe-inspiring tribute to Cherokee heritage. Generously funded by the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, the Cherokee Indian Hospital Foundation has commissioned this ambitious project, working with outside partners Robins & Morton and McMillian, Pazdan, and Smith, to empower the artists to craft something truly extraordinary.

The centerpiece of the project features masks representing the seven revered Cherokee Clans, elegantly encircling a mesmerizing fire. This masterful display stands as a powerful symbol of unity and respect for ancestral roots, a testament to the rich cultural tapestry of the Cherokee people.

However, the impact of the grant extends far beyond the creation of a stunning art piece within the hospital courtyard. The Cherokee Preservation Foundation’s support provides a unique opportunity for the artists, William Rogers, Nathan Bush, and JR Wolfe, to give back to the community. The trio will embark on a journey to visit various community clubs of the EBCI, showcasing their exceptional metalwork skills and sharing the essence and significance of their art.

This act of teaching and sharing holds immense importance to all three artists, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of Cherokee heritage among community members. The grant will equip each community within the Qualla Boundary with their own metalworking tools, enabling future generations to learn the skill and carry forth this rich tradition.

For generations, copper has held a special place in Cherokee culture, representing strength, endurance, and spiritual connections. The art of metalwork is more than just a craft; it carries with it stories of ancestors, a reflection of identity, and a means of preserving the rich traditions of the Cherokee people.

Through their art, Nathan and JR are not only reviving age-old techniques but also bridging the gap between the past and the present, ensuring that their heritage continues to thrive and evolve for future generations. As the artists share their knowledge and expertise, the grant’s impact on the community goes beyond a physical art piece, igniting a cultural renaissance and fostering a sense of unity and pride among the EBCI members.

To read more about the Sacred Fire Courtyard Dedication Ceremony, click here.

Bringing a vision to life

Above is a rendering of the current design for the courtyard (located just outside our Walnut Conference room), the center will be the completed flame built by William Rogers, Nathan Bush and JR Wolfe.

To learn more about metalsmithing and past projects this trio has worked on, check out this article by John O’Hern that details “An Ancient Practice.”

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