South Carolina

‘Voice’ of the marginalized: SC Native American leader passes away

Dr. Will Moreau Goins, CEO of the Cherokee Indian Tribe of South Carolina, speaks to the crowd at the S.C. Progressive Network’s “Women’s March” in Columbia on Jan. 21, 2017. Goins passed away on Saturday.
Dr. Will Moreau Goins, CEO of the Cherokee Indian Tribe of South Carolina, speaks to the crowd at the S.C. Progressive Network’s “Women’s March” in Columbia on Jan. 21, 2017. Goins passed away on Saturday. rthompson@thestate.com

Will Moreau Goins, the former executive director of the Cherokee Indian Tribe of South Carolina, was remembered Monday for putting a spotlight on Native American issues and culture.

Goins, 56, passed away Friday.

Goins was an active promoter of Native American causes, elevating the profile of the Palmetto State’s small community of Cherokee from the state’s classrooms to political activism.

For 20 years, Goins was the driving force behind the Native American Film Festival, highlighting work from native filmmakers and subjects. The festival closes its second decade Tuesday at Columbia’s Nickelodean Theater.

“He was the face of the festival,” said Amada Torruella, programming coordinator at the Nickelodeon, who said the last night of the festival will honor Goins. “He wanted to amplify the voices of marginalized communities, and he was definitely that voice.”

For the past two years, Goins was president of Interfaith Partners of South Carolina. In that role, he ensured that Native American spirituality was represented in the state’s Interfaith Harmony Month in January.

“Dr. Goins’ passion for preserving his Native heritage, spirituality and social justice will be sorely missed,” the Interfaith Partners’ board said in a statement.

Frank Thompson with Workshop Theatre worked with Goins, an accomplished character actor, in a number of productions, adding Goins had become his best friend since he moved to South Carolina seven years ago.

“I don’t think there’s a theater company locally that hasn’t worked with him,” Thompson said. “You could put him anywhere on stage, and, even if he wasn’t a perfect fit for the role, he would make you forget it. He was a chameleon on stage.”

Thompson plans to organize a wake to remember and celebrate his friend, who touched several different communities.

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