Hawaiian professors help with language preservation

BY Phoenix Archives
03/12/2004 11:50 AM
Reprinted with permission from Muskogee Phoenix

By Julie Hubbard

Phoenix Staff Writer
TULSA, Okla. – The couple credited with salvaging the Hawaiian language is now helping another culture revive its dying language.

Kaunanoe Kamana and William H. Wilson, professors of Hawaiian studies and language at the University of Hawaii-Hilo and founders of “Aha Punana Leo”— immersion preschools throughout Hawaii that teach kids to be fluent speakers — were in Tulsa recently giving tips to a group of Cherokees so they can save their vanishing language.

“It’s very important to have our language,” Kamana said. “It’s the core of identity and culture.”

Through their revitalization efforts, 2,000 kids are fluent Hawaiian speakers. And now, the Cherokees, who have no fluent speakers under the age of 40, are using this model to beef up their programs, building a four-year degree program with Northeastern State University in Tahlequah to offer Cherokee language teaching degrees and eventually expand their immersion schools.

In the early 1800s, missionaries went into the string of small Pacific islands known as Hawaii. The newcomers formed schools that taught the native language, and eventually more than 100 Hawaiian-language newspapers were established.

“At one time we had the highest literacy rate in the country,” Kamana said. “But when our government was overthrown, laws were established to break up the culture.”

In 1896, American businessmen created a bill dictating that English be the official language of Hawaii and that it should be the language taught in schools. Hawaiian language lessons ceased — until Kamana and Wilson came along.

“So what caused this resurgence?” Wilson asked. “There was this Hawaiian renaissance going on in the early ’70s. People wanted to be Hawaiian more.”

Wilson and Kamana had just graduated from the University of Hawaii, which taught classes in Hawaiian but didn’t offer it as a degree program.

“No one was graduating speaking it fluently,” Wilson said.

So Kamana and Wilson stepped in and led a rebirth movement. They started a radio program in Hawaiian. They and a core group of college students started working with fluent elders, even living with them to immerse themselves in the language.

Wilson and Kamana decided to speak Hawaiian at home, without using any English. Then they had a son, whom they raised to speak only Hawaiian.

“Then we wanted our children to go to schools that taught Hawaiian,” Wilson said.

And they found others wanted it, too, so they started an immersion preschool.

“The first one failed because teachers didn’t push the language,” he said.

But they tried again. They called it “Aha Punana Leo,” meaning “language nest.”

Due to growing demand, the first public immersion school started in 1984 in the community of Kekaha. In 1987, after pushing lawmakers, a bill was passed to require bringing the language back into schools. From there, a middle school and high school were started. The community started speaking the language and parents even took classes to speak to their children, Wilson said.

“We were even shocked to see the progress,” he said.

Although many, including officials of the Department of Education, thought kids at the immersion school would fall behind in English, kids there began testing out higher than those in the other public schools, Wilson said.

Hawaii now has 12 immersion pre-schools and a host of public schools. Some who have graduated from high school have gone on to get a language teaching degree from the University of Hawaii-Hilo, he said.

“It (revitalization) can happen,” he said. “We worked with the people who wanted it and went from there.”

Cherokee Tribal Couniclor Johnny Keener says the Cherokee language started to taper off in the 1940s when schools and employers told American Indians they should speak English to be successful. And now, 64 percent of the roughly 240,000 Cherokee tribal members have never learned Cherokee. Only 4 percent of Cherokees use the language in their homes, according to a 2002 study.

“Our goal is 50 years from now to have 80 percent (fluent) speakers,” said Wyman Kirk, a strategic planner for the tribe. “If this is just the Cherokee Nation wanting this, it will never happen. We need the Cherokee language in the schools and in the communities.”

Through a federal grant, the tribe is working with the Eastern Band of Cherokees in North Carolina, the Hawaiians, the University of Kansas Anthropology and Linguistics Department, the University of Oklahoma Anthropology Department, Northeastern State University, the Cherokee Nation Child Development Center, Lost City schools and members of the community to rekindle the language.

The Cherokees have two immersion preschool classrooms and a kindergarten class at Lost City and are networking with other rural schools to someday offer the classes. The Cherokee Cultural Resource Center, which is overseeing the language revitalization, has created the Cherokee lexicon, a dictionary of more than 7,000 Cherokee words, which should be released soon.

Fluent speakers soon will be able to get formal training to teach, just as teachers of foreign languages do.

NSU is partnering with the tribe to offer a bachelor of education degree for Cherokee language teachers within the next year, said Kay Grant, NSU dean and associate professor of education.

“It’s only logical that NSU should be the one to step up,” Grant said.

The tribe also is offering language classes in the community and on its Web site, even drawing interest from people in Russia and the former Czechoslovakia, Kirk said.

Other initiatives include offering bonuses to Cherokee Nation employees who learn to speak the language and using Cherokee on road signs and in tribal health clinics.

“It’s going to happen — we’ll find a way,” Dusty Delso, Cherokee Nation executive director of education, said of reviving the Cherokee language. He said the experts are there, the interest is there, and now is time for action. “We have to find that core group of people who are dedicated and make it happen.”

News

BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
12/08/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation attorney general’s office filed a lawsuit on Nov. 28 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma against the United States, Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs and other agencies claiming the federal government mismanaged the tribe’s trust funds. According to a CN Communications release, the suit asks the U.S. to give an “accurate accounting of the Cherokee Trust Fund, which includes property, land, funds and other resources.” The lawsuit states the intent is to “resolve accounting and related equitable claims” that the CN brings against the federal government and some of its agencies and bureaus relating to the government’s management of the CN’s trust fund, including money generating obligations owed by the government to the CN. “Within the Trust Fund, the United States held and managed vast resources for the Nation including inter alia, money; proceeds from the sale of land or profits from the land; money from surface leases for agriculture, surface, oil and gas mining leases, coal leases, sand and gravel leases, businesses, and town lots; income from property owned by the Nation’ buildings; the Nation’s records; and money resulting from treaties or other agreements,” the lawsuit states. During an April 28 Rules Committee meeting, prior to the Tribal Council’s approval of the litigation, Attorney General Todd Hembree said the lawsuit’s purpose was to have a proper accounting of and to rectify any and all trust violations or trust responsibilities that were not fulfilled by the U.S. to the CN. “This is a monumental lawsuit. We discussed the details of the arrangement…This does involve treaty rights. So therefore, in accordance with the Consent to Litigation Act, before going forward we must have a council resolution,” Hembree said. “ This is a once-in-a-lifetime type of suit, and we hope to be very judicious in its prosecution and to be a game changer for the Cherokee Nation when it’s all complete.” When the Tribal Council discussed the lawsuit on April 28, Tribal Councilor Dick Lay asked if there was any kind of waiver of sovereign immunity included with the legislation. Hembree said “no” and that the lawsuit wouldn’t require a waiver either. “It is very advantageous for the Cherokee Nation. The way it’s structured, if I was the plaintiff in this lawsuit I’d be comfortable with it,” Hembree said. According to the suit, outside attorneys representing the tribe are from the Indian and Environmental Law Group in Tulsa, Hunsucker Goodstein PC in Washington, D.C., and Askman Law Firm in Denver. The Cherokee Phoenix requested costs for the outside attorney contracts through CN Communications and a Freedom of Information Act request on Dec. 5, but as of press time neither had been received. Some Tribal Councilors during the April 28 meeting said other tribes had seen success with similar lawsuits against the U.S., so in essence the groundwork had already been laid for the CN. Tribal Councilor David Thornton said the case was not expected to be resolved quickly, but over several years. Hembree said he hopes to prosecute the case within three years, but believes both sides would settle at some point. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2016/12/10841__nws_161205_TrustLitigation.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to read</a>the complaint document.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
12/08/2016 10:00 AM
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — A judge has refused to move the trial of a woman charged with crashing into spectators at the Oklahoma State homecoming parade and killing four. The Payne County district judge on Tuesday turned down the request by attorneys for 26-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen Adacia Chambers. Defense attorneys argued that Chambers couldn't get a fair trial in Payne County because of pretrial publicity. Judge Stephen Kistler also rejected other motions, including one to suppress statements made by Chambers, who witnesses said commented about being suicidal following the October 2015 crash. Other motions denied include one to suppress autopsy photos of victims and to order the families of victims not to show emotion while in court. Chambers has pleaded not guilty to four counts of second-degree murder and 42 counts of assault and battery.
BY LINDSEY BARK
Staff Writer
12/08/2016 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to unofficial results, Joe Bunch won the Dec. 5 runoff for United Keetoowah Band principal chief against Anile Locust. Unofficial results show Bunch received 58.64 percent of the votes (302 votes) while Locust received 41.36 percent (213 votes). A total of 515 UKB citizens voted in the tribe’s nine districts. Bunch said he thanks the UKB citizens for “overwhelmingly” electing him for his first full term as principal chief. He has served as interim-principal chief since May after the Tribal Council voted to remove former Principal Chief George Wickliffe from office, a decision that the UKB courts later upheld. “I look forward in using my 32 years experience in tribal government moving our tribe forward. It will be an honor and privilege working with federal agencies in resolving our shortage of federal resources provided to all federally recognized tribal governments,” Bunch said. “I plan to move our tribe forward by getting land in trust, re-establish our gaming portfolio and develop our economic status while safeguarding our rich Keetoowah tradition and heritage. Thank you Keetoowah voters for your confidence in me.” In a Facebook post, Locust commented about conceding the race to Bunch. “It was truly a great race for the office of the chief. I had fun. I met a great bunch of people, and I was honored to have so many people support me…Pray for Joe Bunch and the rest of our leaders as this is what we are commanded to do,” she states. The Cherokee Phoenix contacted Locust for comment but she declined. Bunch was expected to be sworn into office on Jan. 7. According to the UKB Election Board, results would not be official until five days after the date of the election for any protests, appeals or recounts of election votes.
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/07/2016 12:00 PM
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee Heritage Center will close to the public for 16 days beginning Jan. 1 after another season of promoting Cherokee history and culture. “This has been a busy year for the heritage center, and we have welcomed visitors from across the country,” Tonia Hogner-Weavel, interim CHC director, said. “We are thankful for the generous support of all of our sponsors and donors and look forward to bringing a full, fun-filled schedule again in 2017.” As the tourism season winds down, CHC will operate under holiday hours effective Dec. 1. The CHC will be closed to the public Dec. 23-26. From Dec. 27-31, it will open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. From Jan. 1-16 it will close to the public, and from Jan. 17 to May 27 it will open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Guided tours through the ancient village Diligwa will be offered twice daily at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. While the CHC operates independently from the tribe, it continues to promote tourism within the Cherokee Nation. More than 50,000 guests visited the CHC throughout the year, taking advantage of everything the organization has to offer. In addition to permanent exhibits and archives, CHC featured four exclusive exhibits, four art shows, monthly cultural classes, group tours and various educational events. It is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive. For information on 2017 season events, operating hours and programs, call 1-888-999-6007 or visit <a href="http://www.CherokeeHeritage.org" target="_blank">www.CherokeeHeritage.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/07/2016 09:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. –Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden issued a statement today regarding the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. His statement is as follows: “President Franklin D. Roosevelt said Dec. 7, 1941, is a date which will live in infamy, and those words ring as true today as when he gave the famous speech 75 years ago. The attack on Pearl Harbor changed the course of history for our great country and the lives of those men and women serving at Pearl Harbor and those who served in World War II. As Cherokee Nation citizens and Americans, I encourage you to take a moment today and recognize and honor the brave men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice on that day. Also, remember to keep in your mind and heart those who answer the call to protect our freedoms and country today, especially on this day of remembrance when the United States faced and overcame its greatest challenge.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/06/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials will attend area Christmas parades with floats during the holiday season. At 6 p.m. on Dec. 9, the CN will have a float in the Christmas Parade of Lights in Tahlequah. The tribe will also have a float in Catoosa’s Christmas Parade, which begins at 2 p.m. on Dec. 10. The tribe will also have a float in the Christmas Parade in Jay, which begins at 2 p.m. on Dec. 10, as well as the Christmas Parade in Hulbert, which begins at 6 p.m. on Dec. 10. Finishing out the holiday parade season, the CN officials will have a float in the Christmas Parade of Sallisaw, which begins at 6 p.m. on Dec. 10.