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Mars Hill University Renews Agreement with Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

Chief President StudentsRepresentatives from Mars Hill University and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) signed a renewal agreement today, September 9, solidifying and renewing the cooperative relationship between the two organizations.

Dr. Dan Lunsford, president of MHU, and Michell Hicks, Principal Chief of EBCI, signed ceremonial versions of the agreement in both English and Cherokee. The agreements signed today will be framed and displayed on the Mars Hill campus and in the tribal offices in Cherokee.

According to Lunsford, the purpose of the agreement is, first, to enhance educational opportunities for students who are members of the Eastern Band to come to MHC. Second, the agreement includes important components which call on the tribe for input regarding historic collections at the university related to Native American history. Lunsford said those collections include: "significant artifacts and documentation of the great contributions of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to the region."

Hicks said he appreciated the relationship of friendship with both Lunsford and with Mars Hill University. He said the EBCI supports education for its young members, spending about $3.5 million in N.C. annually for educating Cherokee students. That money goes toward the arrangement with Mars Hill, as well as other, similar arrangements with universities throughout the state. That is an investment not in just in the lives of the individual students, but in the future of the EBCI.

"We want to keep working hard so that these young folks can have the best opportunities that we can put in front of them," he said. "There're still a number of areas within the tribe that we have voids, whether it's doctors or architects or accountants or lawyers, etc. And we want to make sure that we do the best we can to fill those gaps, so that as we move forward as a tribe, those services and that need for expertise is filled."

Ebci Mhu Agreement DocumentsThe agreement, which was originally signed in February of 2011, calls for EBCI to take an active role in continuing to provide advice and consultation for various historic events and presentations at the university. It also calls for a cooperative effort to provide comprehensive scholarship funds for all members of EBCI who qualify academically, and who choose to attend Mars Hill University.

Updates to the agreement this year allow for more flexibility in granting financial aid to students attending Mars Hill who are members of EBCI than did the original document Further, MHU will offer a $20,000 grant annually for any approved EBCI student(s) recruited to any of MHU's athletic teams.

Currently, 13 students at Mars Hill University are EBCI members.

(posted 20140909)