SJP to unveil mural honoring Cherokee Nation


Senior Ashley Meyer works on a mural designed by the Same Moon, Same Stars group, an initiative several students in Palo Alto High School’s Social Justice Program started. Students worked alongside Delegate of Congress Kimberly Teehee and other members of the Cherokee Nation to form a project as a way of advocating for the representation of the Cherokee people in the House of Representatives. “The biggest goal for our mural, along with education and awareness, is to inspire other people to do similar efforts,” Senior and project leader Megha Madhabhushi said. “I hope people will see the mural and try to raise the word about different groups of people that are underrepresented in our community.” (Photo: Megha Madhabhushi)

Payton Anderson, Senior Staff Writer

Students from Palo Alto High School’s Social Justice Pathway are working to gain recognition for the Cherokee Nation in the House of Representatives by unveiling an on-campus mural in the late afternoon on Monday. 

Senior and project leader Megha Madhabhushi said the mural began as a small assignment in her SJP US History class last year on the Treaty of New Echota, a document that forced the removal of Cherokee people from their land in 1835. 

“We [the SJP class] were given an assignment after learning about the Treaty of New Echota and the Trail of Tears to create a small mural,” Madhabhushi said. “In doing so, a group of students including myself realized that we wanted to enhance this education that we noticed wasn’t really taught outside of the social justice classroom.” 

Madhabhushi said she connected with Delegate to Congress Kimberly Teehee and other members of the class to help create a plan for a larger mural to be created. According to Madhabhushi, Teehee wanted to get involved with the student group to raise awareness for her upcoming campaign for a future delegate spot in the House of Representatives as well as the lasting negative effects the Treaty of New Echota had on the Cherokee Nation. 

“The biggest accomplishments that we will be making is not only the mural going up, but also having the actual thing where so many members in our community will be able to officially pledge that we support the seating [in Congress] of Kimberly Teehee and the Cherokee Nation,” Madhabhushi said. 

Senior and lead artist Kellyn Scheel said the mural started as a small design she’d created for an SJP project but quickly grew into something bigger. Soon enough, the Same Moon, Same Stars group was formed by her and several of her classmates alongside Kimberly Teehee to help spread the mural’s message online and throughout the community. 

“My design process was centered around the research team, and they narrowed down seven different sections of Teehee’s life that we wanted to represent within it and how that tied to her campaign,” Scheel said. “From there we created a design and then anytime Cherokee Nation said one piece should be changed or made to be more accurate, we would go back and change or find something else that would suit it better.” 

Senior and member of the project’s artistic team Rebecca Helft said maintaining communication with the Cherokee Nation throughout this process was the most important part of the project. 

“There were definitely challenges with this project, such as communication with so many people including Teehee and members of the Cherokee Nation,” Helft said. “We wanted to make sure our design was thoughtful and well-researched.” 

In addition to the mural, Madhabhushi said the concept behind the project is one she hopes will have a significant impact on the way students and teachers continue to view historical events and the groups of people that are affected as a result. 

“Since Native American culture is not really something that’s covered in the history curriculum at our school, learning about a minority group through a non-white-centric lens was really inspiring,” Madhabhushi said. “The idea of enhancing that kind of representation was really inspiring to me and that made me want to be part of this group and want to further this and hope that in the future more things like this would happen.” 

In addition to the significance of the project, Helft said this process has inspired her by proving that art is one of the best ways to encourage younger people to get involved with current issues and different aspects of their community. 

“Art is one of the most effective ways of spreading a message, particularly to teens,” Helft said. “I hope this issue will remain more present in the Paly community’s conscious, and then inspire more students to care more about social justice.” 

The mural will be showcased on the side of the 800s building consisting of a variety of design work and imagery to represent and honor different cultural aspects of the Cherokee Nation and accomplishments by Teehee, Scheel said. 

“The initial idea is to get people to come to the unveiling, to talk to Teehee and to write letters to Congress,” Scheel said. “But also, I want to show that being a student doesn’t mean that you can’t make a difference.”  

The unveiling of the mural will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Monday in front of the 800s building.