“We have a packed house today for a very important reason,” said Council Chairwoman Terri Henry at last month’s Tribal Council meeting.
About 50 people, including students from Robbinsville and her family, came to council that morning to see Bird become a “beloved woman,” the greatest honor any enrolled member of the tribe can receive. The “beloved” title is bestowed on men and women who uphold Cherokee traditions and ideals.
“A person that you can look up to, a person you can respect, a person you can lean your head on and cry, just that type of person. A person who you can really, really follow in her footsteps,” said Adam Wachacha, a Tribal Council representative from Snowbird who is related to Bird.
Wachacha and fellow Snowbird representative Brandon Jones introduced the resolution asking to name Bird a “beloved woman” at council.
“It was something that we felt was imperative,” Jones said. “She [has] lived a clean and godly life. I am very proud to call her my neighbor and friend.”
The resolution passed unanimously.
The “beloved” title is not given out often, but this year has seen two enrolled members named “beloved” — Bird and Jerry Wolfe. Wolfe was the first man to receive the honor since the early 1800s. The last woman to garner the distinction, however, was Myrtle Driver, the Cherokee language translator for Tribal Council and the Kituwah Academy, in 2007.
Bird, a native Cherokee language speaker, was given the accolade for being virtuous, for her volunteer work and for being a pillar of the Snowbird community. She has become known for teaching Cherokee traditions to younger generations through cooking native foods, gardening, language, quilting and canning. Several of the students present at council Thursday brought with them quilts that Bird had taught them how to make.
“I don’t think we could have picked a more humble lady than Miss Ella Bird,” said Principal Chief Michell Hicks. “She is always pleasant. She is always in a good mood; she is always in a helping mood.”
There was not a bad word to be said about Bird as she sat before council and listened to tribal leaders, friends and family share their feelings about her.
“As long as I can remember, since I’ve known Miss Bird, everybody loves her. I have never ever heard anyone say anything bad about her,” said Shirley Oswalt, an enrolled member of the Eastern Band from Snowbird. “She is rare; she is decent; she is nice; she is pure; she is slow to anger.”
Tribal Council Chairwoman Terri Henry said Bird is someone she looks up to — the perfect example of a good Cherokee woman.
“I just want to thank you for being a role model and being who you are,” Henry said.