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 STAFF REPORTS
11/26/2014 11:09 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A new report shows the state of Oklahoma collected $122 million in gaming fees from Native American tribes during the last fiscal year. The report issued Nov. 19 by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services shows that for the first time ever, the fees paid to the state declined from the previous year. The report noted a drop of nearly $5.5 million – or about 4 percent – from previous year’s collections. The funds are used primarily for public education. Possible reasons cited for the decline include an increase in the number of Class II games such as electronic bingo for which tribes do not pay exclusivity fees and “possible market saturation.” The annual report was prepared by the state agency’s Gaming Compliance Unit.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
11/26/2014 08:27 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Cierra Fields wants the Tribal Council to raise the age from 14 years old to 16 years old in which someone can lawfully consent to sex under CN law. “The legislation is trying to change the age of consent within Cherokee Nation with its Cherokee citizens from 14 to 16 with plus two, minus two. So if it’s a 16-year-old that sleeps with a 14-year-old it doesn’t go as a sexual offense, but if it’s an 18-year-old who’s sleeping with a 14-year-old then because they’re under 16 and its over two years then it counts as a sexual crime,” Cierra said. The bulk of the amendment is changing the consent age from 14 to 16. “I still can’t decide what I want to eat for breakfast and I’m 15. Fourteen-year-olds mentally and physically are not ready for sex,” she said. Cierra said she’s always been passionate about advocating for those who have been sexually assaulted, having had family members assaulted. She said women she’s known in her life have said they’ve either been sexually assaulted or raped, and it’s always bothered her. “But whenever I was in Oregon (in June for a conference) I was sexually assaulted, and I wasn’t home. I was in a totally unfamiliar place and with only two or three people that I actually knew out of hundreds,” she said. Cierra was a guest speaker at a youth conference when she was assaulted in a hotel room. She had developed a migraine so she took medicine and chose to return to her room rather than go to dinner with friends. “It was probably one of the worse migraines I’ve ever had and they told me to go on up the elevator,” she said. Cierra’s mother, Terri, said her friends watched Cierra get on the elevator that contained the alleged perpetrator, who was attending the conference. “We thought you know, she’s in a 5-star hotel in Portland with people she knows,” Terri said. “This incident could have happened here. It could have happened with me in the hotel. I don’t know if I would have done anything differently. The people that she was with, they done everything that I would have done. It was a crime of opportunity, and he took full advantage of the fact that she was sick. He took advantage that she was dizzy from her medication she had just taken.” Cierra said some sexual offenders probably think ‘well I’m not 18 yet so I can’t go for a sex crime.’ She said the consent law change would give CN officials more leverage in filing first-degree rape charges and make it more difficult to plea down to statutory rape. Attorney General Todd Hembree said there are circumstances between 14 years of age where consent could be allowed under CN law, depending on the age of the other person involved. “Our law right now is very common to a lot of other states. They have what is commonly known as a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ provision where as two individuals that are very close in age both being minors – there are instances where the court can find where consent is allowed during sexual intercourse,” he said. “That’s just something that the Tribal Council will have to weigh of whether we take that…distinction away. Because there can be instances where that should be considered. Here, this amendment is going to be a straight bright line decision, age 16 is consent, no exceptions.” Currently, the age of blanket consent in Oklahoma is 16. However, a 15-year-old can consent to sex with any person who is 15 to 18 years old. No person 14 or younger can consent to sex, CN Assistant Attorney General Chrissi Ross Nimmo said. “Currently, in Cherokee Nation, the age of blanket consent is 16, but a 14- or 15-year-old can consent to sex with any person 14 to 18,” she said. “No person 13 or younger can ever consent to sex. The only difference under current Oklahoma law and current Cherokee Nation law is whether a 14-year-old can consent to sex with someone between the ages of 14 and 18.” Oklahoma’s law states no one under 16 can consent to sex. So the tribe’s possible amendment would mirror what the state deems an age in which one can consent to having sex. It’s not like other states where parents can consent to their 14-year-old child having sex, Cierra said. Terri said the law also doesn’t distinguish if one’s significant other is in high school. “That means that a 30- or 40-year-old can have sex in Cherokee Nation with a 14-year-old with the current law. I consider that a pedophile. So this will at least make the person 16 before they can consent.” she said. Cierra said one reason she thinks raising the consent age has been “shot down” previously is that families can state that he or she didn’t consent now that the boyfriend or girlfriend just turned 18. “Oh, her daddy didn’t like me, and because she is over the age or he just turned 18 even though they’ve been dating for say four years, he still gets charged as a sexual offender. So we’re hoping with the plus two (years) and everything that can help regulate that,” she said. The plus two years and minus two years will attempt to keep people from abusing the age gap, Terri said. (If an 18-year-old) Is dating a 16 year old, it’s not a sexual offense unless it truly is a case of rape. It’s where a parent just can’t come and press charges for like statutory rape,” she said. “‘They don’t like Johnny and he’s 18.’ We definitely don’t want, you know, young men caught in that situation. Because we’ve all been there. We’ve all dated people where your parents are like ‘oh my god, you are to never see that person again.’ And then they are able to use that law to me has been used to their advantage. “Yeah, we understand that, that can happen, but we have to start teaching our students that under 16 you are not legally able to make that choice. Your parents cannot make that choice for you,” Terri added. Both Cierra and Terri hoped the law would state no child under 16 can consent to sex, with or without parental consent, and were waiting on Legislative Act 09-12 to go before the Rules Committee. <strong>Current laws for the Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma Cherokee Nation:</strong> A 16-year-old can consent to sex with any aged adult. A 15-year-old can consent to sex with someone who is 15, 16, 17 or 18. A 14-year-old can consent to sex with someone who is 14, 15, 16, 17 or 18. A 13-year-old (or younger) can never consent to sex. <strong>Oklahoma:</strong> A 16-year-old can consent to sex with any aged adult. A 15-year-old can consent to sex with someone who is 15, 16, 17 or 18. A 14-year-old (or younger) can never consent to sex.
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/25/2014 04:04 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – On Jan. 29, Loretta Lynn will perform at the The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. After being encouraged to learn to play the guitar and write songs by her husband, Doo, who she married at 13, Lynn quickly became a natural and began playing at area nightclubs. She caught the attention of Zero Records and recorded her debut single “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl.” Lynn made herself a fringed cowgirl outfit, and she and Doo drove across the country promoting her single. By fall 1961, Lynn was a regular on the Grand Ole Opry stage and in 1962 her Decca Record debut came out with the smash hit “Success.” It was the first of her 51 Top 10 hits. Among Lynn’s other songs are “You Wanna Give Me a Lift,” “I Wanna Be Free,” “We’ve Come a Long Way Baby,” “Love Is the Foundation” and “One’s on the Way.” In 1967, she began picking up various Female Vocalist of the Year trophies. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Lynn dominated the charts with hits such as “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” “Somebody Somewhere,” “Out of My Head and Back in My Bed,” “I’ve Got a Picture of Us on My Mind” and her 1982 smash hits “I Lie” and “Making Love from Memory,” which brought her into the new decade. In 1971, Lynn and fellow country musician Conway Twitty won several Duet of the Year awards. In 1972, Lynn made history as the first woman to win the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year trophy. The country star continued renewing her creativity after being inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1983 with the hit “Heart Don’t Do This to Me.” In 1988, Lynn entered the Country Music Hall of Fame. She earned a gold record in 1994 with “Honky Tonk Angels,” a trio CD with Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette. In 2000, she was back again with the CD titled “Still Country.” She also returned to the concert trail. In 2002, Lynn published a second memoir, “Still Woman Enough,” and was honored at the Kennedy Center in 2003. The following year she won two Grammy Awards for “Van Lear Rose,” a collaboration with rocker Jack White. Lynn added to her collection of awards in 2008, when she was inducted into the National Songwriters Hall of Fame, and in 2010, when she won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Tickets start at $40 and go on sale Nov. 28. Tickets are available online in The Joint section of <a href="http://www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com" target="_blank">www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com</a> or by calling 918-384-ROCK.
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/25/2014 03:27 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation will hold its annual “Light Up” event at 5 p.m. on Dec. 6 at the Cherokee National Capitol Square. The event will feature the Cherokee National Youth Choir, holiday lights as well as cookies and hot cocoa for guests. Following the event will be the Tahlequah Christmas Parade of Lights at 6 p.m. in downtown Tahlequah.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
11/25/2014 08:00 AM
VINITA, Okla. – More than 150 people attended the Cherokee Cultural Day event on Nov. 22 at the Cherokee Nation Vinita Health Center. The Vinita Indian Territory Coalition and Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez sponsored the second annual event. “This is the second year that I have helped host. We call it ‘Cherokee Culture Day’ at the Vinita health clinic. Last year I came up the idea right before I got elected to council, but I wanted to honor the National Treasures in Vinita because we rarely get a lot of culture activities in Vinita,” Vazquez said. The event had several cultural activities for the community to take part in, including cornhusk dolls, handprint making, basket weaving, story telling and flute playing. Vazquez said she invited two National Treasures to the event as well. “I brought two National Treasures. I try to focus on different ones each year because there are 40-something still living,” she said. Some members of the VITC also volunteered to make Indian tacos and sell them to raise funds for the local Special Olympics team. CN citizen and VITC President Paula Butcher said the VITC raised nearly $700. The money raised will be used to send about 10 kids to the Special Olympics winter games in Oklahoma City. Vazquez said even with the rain the day was a success. “Even though it was cold and rainy people were looking for something to do, and all the artists sold well, and everyone loved it. In fact, I had people come up to me that said ‘how can I participate next year as an artist?” she said. “We were amazed at how busy it was, and I had a door prize drawing every hour.” She added that seeing people of all ages enjoying the many activities was a great sight. “But I think what was just the cutest thing was that different ages of people learning to make baskets…one elderly man standing there working on a basket and an elderly woman was sitting there making the cornhusk dolls. She’d never got to do that before, and then we had lots of kids. So it was fun for everybody,” Vazquez said. Vazquez said she’s thankful for all the help from the volunteers as well as the donation of the location by the CN Vinita Health Center. Vazquez said they plan to continue to have this event each year and eventually grow the VITC and make it into a CN community organization. Cherokees interested in getting in touch with Vazquez can email victoria-vazquez@cherokee.org or call her at 918-323-2980.
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter
11/24/2014 08:37 AM
CATOOSA, Okla. – It’s been 10 years since Oklahoma voters approved State Question 712, the constitutional amendment that allowed state tribes to bring in compact games, like those at casinos in Las Vegas, into their respective casinos. Cherokee Nation, along with those who supported SQ712, celebrated the state question’s 10th anniversary during a Nov. 17 gathering at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. Principal Chief Bill John Baker said passing SQ712 was a “win-win” for the state, tribes, Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association, Thoroughbred Racing Association of Oklahoma and education. “You’ve heard the numbers of economic development and the $1.3 billion impact that only the Cherokee Nation had,” he said. “There are 39 tribes in the state of Oklahoma, and they all have similar circumstances. We are the economic engines of northeastern Oklahoma. We could not be that without 712.” Former Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry expressed how he had faith in SQ712. “We have so much to be proud of in these 10 short years,” he said. “If you just think about it tribal gaming in the state of Oklahoma has been an unbelievable impact.” Henry said SQ712 betters Oklahomans today and would continue to do so. “I don’t think there’s anything that we’ve done as a state in the last 50 years that has the kind of impact that SQ712 has,” he said. “There were visionaries who saw a great vision in the future, but none of us anticipated the incredible impact of 712 that we see today. I don’t think any of us fully grasp the future of this program and where we’re headed and the incredible things that will result in the state of Oklahoma for all Oklahomans, Native American and not, in the future.” Cherokee Nation Businesses interim CEO Shawn Slaton said he’s thankful that Baker has given CNB the opportunity to build clinics and a new hospital in the tribe’s jurisdiction from a portion of the tribe’s gaming profits. “Everyone’s talked about the vision of 712 and where that’s taken us. Chief, I appreciate your vision beyond that and what you’ve allowed the businesses to do with the profits,” he said. “Gov. Henry, I really appreciate you pushing that (712) to a vote of the people, and I’d like to thank the people of the state of Oklahoma for passing it because without them this wouldn’t be possible.” Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission Director Jamie Hummingbird said the addition of compact games to Cherokee casinos has brought in people who would otherwise travel to Las Vegas or Tunica, Mississippi, to game. “Just by virtue of having the ability to take advantage of some of the game libraries that are offered by some of the class three gaming manufactures has brought a lot of new players out to the facilities,” he said. Hummingbird said there are approximately 6,500 gaming machines and 83 table games in Cherokee casinos. “The table games are all compact,” he said. “As far as the total number of compact machines, 60 percent of that roughly is compact games. Our ratio is roughly 60/40 between compact games and Class II games.” Hummingbird said the game ratio has stayed at 60/40 percent for approximately five years but that it could change depending on players’ tastes. “If they are wanting more compact games, or games that we can only get through the compact, then that’s what we will see,” he said. “A lot of this is going to be dictated by the players.” Hummingbird said when looking back he didn’t believe anyone could foresee what SQ712 has provided for tribes and the state. “I think that the overall impact the tribe’s have had by virtue of having the compacts through SQ712 have far exceeded what anybody had anticipated 10 years ago,” he said. “We’ve done this through an effort between the tribal government, including the gaming commission, as well as the casino operators, as well as the vendors and the state. I think the success is not just because of one piece of the puzzle, but just by having everybody working together to make sure it has been a success. It’s been a complete team effort.” After the 2004 election, the CN was one of the first tribes to sign a gaming compact with Oklahoma. Currently 33 of 39 tribes in Oklahoma have gaming compacts. Since the signing the compact, which expires in 2020, the CN has created approximately 4,000 jobs. It has also paid more than $100 million in fees to support Oklahoma’s horse racing industry and approximately $126 million for education. Tribes in Oklahoma have provided approximately $895 million for the state under SQ712. The revenue brought in last year was approximately $122 million. The state originally projected tribes would bring in $71 million per year.