COLUMBIA — Willow Hoxie, like many other MU freshmen, is enrolled in an American history course. Being a member of the Cherokee Nation, however, gives her a unique perspective on the country's past.
“We were talking about racism and discrimination, and my teacher talked specifically about African-Americans, and I really just wanted to raise my hand and say, ‘Excuse me, in this period it was not just African-Americans who were being discriminated against,’” she said. “‘It was Asian-Americans. It was Native Americans. It was everybody.’”
Hoxie, 18, is from Tulsa, Okla. Her Native American heritage comes from her mother’s parents, who ensured Hoxie and her sister learned about Cherokee traditions from a young age.
Hoxie’s grandfather is an artist who specializes in wood carving. Her grandparents were collectors of Native American art, and she said her grandmother had a particular eye for emerging talent.
“One of the most famous Cherokee artists ever, Bill Rabbit – my grandmother fostered his talent, and they have his pieces all over the house,” she said.
Hoxie said her grandfather has carved, among other things, a picture of her and her sister, a large life-like rattlesnake and a turtle for her grandmother because her Cherokee name was the word for turtle.
Hoxie said she collects items with turtles, butterflies and wolves on them; butterflies because her Cherokee name is the word for butterfly and wolves because her family is part of the Wolf Clan of the Cherokee Nation.
Since she came to MU, Hoxie has joined the awareness group Four Directions: Indigenous Peoples and Allies. The group has been holding events this month for Native American Heritage Month, such as film screenings and discussions in residence halls across campus.
Hoxie especially wants to continue to celebrate her heritage now that she’s away from home and her grandmother passed away. Her grandmother was the one who taught Hoxie to sing in Cherokee and even got her to audition for the Cherokee National Youth Choir. Hoxie said that when she misses home she likes to listen to the songs she learned from her grandmother.
“One of the things I do, is, the Cherokee Choir CDs – I’ve had those for forever, so I always have them on my computer, and whenever I get really homesick or sad, I just listen to them and it reminds me of home and my grandmother cause I really miss her,” she said.