WCU's Robert Conley Receives Author Award
Robert J. Conley, the newly appointed Sequoyah Distinguished Professor of Cherokee Studies at Western Carolina University, has been selected to receive the 2009 American Indian Festival of Words Author Award.
The award, which includes a $5,000 cash prize and commemorative medallion, is presented to outstanding American Indian writers who have made significant contributions to American literature. Bestowed by the American Indian Resource Center, the Tulsa (Okla.) Library Trust and the Tulsa City-County Library, it is the only existing award given by a public library to honor an American Indian author.
Past recipients include Carter Revard (2007), Leslie Marmon-Silko (2005), Vine DeLoria Jr. (2003) and Joy Harjo (2001).
A prolific author with 80 books to his credit during a career spanning 40 years, Conley will accept the award during the annual American Indian Festival of Words in March at Tulsa's Central Library. The festival features cultural crafts, dancers, storytellers and other activities for people of all ages.
Conley has won numerous awards for his writing, including the Wordcraft Circle "Wordcrafter of the Year" in 1997 and "Writer of the Year" in 1999 for fiction for his "War Women." His "The Cherokee Nation: A History" was selected by the American Library Association as an "outstanding academic title" for 2005, and his "Cherokee Medicine Man" was a 2007 nominee for the Oklahoma Reads Oklahoma competition. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Professional Writers Hall of Fame in 1996.
An enrolled member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, Conley has held teaching and administrative positions at numerous institutions during his career, including Northern Illinois University, Southwest Missouri State University, Eastern Montana College, Bacone College, Morningside College, University of New Mexico and Lenoir-Rhyne College. He was an adjunct faculty member in WCU's Cherokee studies program in 2005, and became the university's Sequoyah Distinguished Professor earlier this year.
The $1 million Sequoyah Distinguished Professorship was fully funded in 1998. Funds to match a state grant for the position came from several sources, including the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, National Endowment for the Humanities, the Friends of Sequoyah organization, Cherokee businessman James A. "Jimmy" Cooper, and Harrah's Entertainment.
The professorship is named in honor of an 18th century Cherokee man who devised the Cherokee syllabary, the first Native American system of writing in North America.
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