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Thursday, January 31, 2013

UNCP’s medicine wheel a symbol of health and history

On January 13, UNC Pembroke dedicated its newest campus landmark in the Health Sciences Building. More than 50 people contributed to the privately-funded project.

Medicine wheel embedded in floor of lobby to Health Sciences Building

Medicine wheel embedded in floor of lobby to Health Sciences Building

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As the university continues to celebrate its 125th anniversary, the medicine wheel represents the university’s connection to its founding by American Indians. It is also an ancient symbol of health and well-being, which is fitting in the building that is the new home of UNCP’s nursing and social work programs.

Embedded in a terrazzo floor, the medicine wheel is carried on the back of a turtle at the entrance to the Health Sciences Building. It is the newest of several historic landmarks on campus.

Barbara Braveboy-Locklear, who helped lead the fundraising, said the project was “close to her heart.”

“Symbols are important, and this one is especially important during the university’s 125th anniversary,” Braveboy-Locklear said. “I felt we needed another campus icon that speaks to our history and our American Indian heritage. It’s also educational for those who would learn more about the university’s history and American Indian culture.”

For medicine wheel designer Joe Liles and university architect Michael Clark, the image is appropriate for the site.

“My goal was to create another American Indian icon for the university,” Clark said. “A medicine wheel in this location made sense.”

Liles explained that the medicine wheel symbolism. With the four sacred directions and four seasons, the medicine wheel represents the importance of balance to well-being and healing. The turtle is the symbol of the creation story of Eastern Woodland Indians.

 A Durham resident, the Liles met Clark at North Carolina State University in the 1960s. “Mike introduced me to the Lumbee community, and I’ve been involved ever since,” he said. “I am pleased with the project. They captured the essence of my design down to the scales on the tail.”

Chancellor Carter addresses the dedication gathering from the donor wall.

Chancellor Carter addresses the dedication gathering from the donor wall.

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Chancellor Kyle R. Carter thanked all the donors and the approximately 100 who attended the dedication.

“There is tremendous support in this community for this school and for its history,” Chancellor Carter said. “The purpose of the medicine wheel is to memorialize the American Indian roots of our university. It symbolizes health and wellness and connectedness to the land and its people.”

Dr. Carter said the building is a great addition to the university and will help UNCP reach its goal of fostering a healthier community.

“Healthcare is a challenge for our community, and we want to be part of the solution,” he concluded.

Dr. Kenneth Kitts, provost and vice chancellor of Academic Affairs, touted the advanced technology in the Health Sciences Building and the dedicated faculty and staff who work there.

“Nursing and social work are two of our largest and fastest growing departments,” he said. “Our programs address regional needs that will improve the quality of life in our region. One hundred and twenty-five years ago that was also the mission of the university’s founders.

“This facility, and the $3 million in technology inside, will have a transformative effect on our students and our region,” Dr. Kitts said.

Wendy Lowery, vice chancellor for Advancement, thanked the medicine wheel committee, including Braveboy-Locklear, Clark, Dr. Freda Porter, Dr. Cherry Beasley of the nursing faculty and Dr. Stan Knick, curator of UNCP’s Native American Resources Center.

Tours of the clinical classrooms were given following the dedication. American Indian flute and drum music accompanied the event.

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