Press release from MOUNTAIN LEGACY INTERNATIONAL
Anthropologists David Holmberg and Kathryn March will receive the 2021 Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal for their many decades of friendship and assistance to Nepal, and for their leadership in educational exchange programs between Tribhuvan University and Cornell University.
The Hillary Medal was established in 2003 with the express approval of Hillary himself. It both recognizes Sir Edmund’s life-long commitment to the welfare of mountain people and their environment and also encourages the continuing emulation of his example.
Dr. Kumar Mainali, Geospatial Data Scientist at the Chesapeake Conservancy and President of Mountain Legacy International, announced the selection of the husband and wife team. “Professors Holmberg and March have carried out field work among the Tamang of Nepal for more than forty years, documenting and preserving customs and beliefs that are under pressure, and even re-introducing folk music that was no longer in circulation. They built a collaboration between Cornell and Tribhuvan University that became one of the most important vehicles for research and academic exchange in Nepal and also provided mentorship in economic initiatives, particularly ecotourism focused on Phyukhri Ridge. In the wake of the 2015 earthquakes, they were effective fundraisers for recovery efforts. Their achievements on behalf of highland communities of Nepal, and of the country itself, are truly exemplary.”
Regarding their scholarship, Dr. March observes, “I think that both David Holmberg and I saw our work as an effort to record, preserve, and honor traditions [that were being lost as pressures mounted on all ethnic communities to assimilate for the sake of development.] National education, language, and media policies were Nepali-language only. I remember being at the dedication of a small stupa near Boudha to honor Santa Bir Lama, author of one of the only books about Tamang culture then available; all the speeches were being given in Nepali, and people were thrilled and shocked that I spoke up, in Tamang language, to plea for them not to forget the language and traditions that Santa Bir had championed.”
The award will be presented In Ithaca NY, home of Cornell University, on December 11 (International Mountain Day).
More information: https://www.hillarymedal.com/medal2021dhkm.html