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.”


11/30/2015 02:00 PM
MULDROW, Okla. (AP) – The first American soldier to die in combat against the Islamic State group in Iraq was remembered Nov. 24 during a memorial service as a man who was passionate about his wife, children, church and making others happy. The service was held at Trinity United Methodist Church in Muldrow for U.S. Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, 39, a Cherokee Nation citizen who lived in nearby Roland and graduated Muldrow High School in 1994 before joining the Army a year later. “I was so mad at him when he went to the service, but I want to take it back because good Lord, look what he’s done,” Zach Wheeler, his brother, said during the service. “He’s one of the best soldiers in the world.” Joshua Wheeler joined the Army as an infantryman in 1995 and completed his initial training at Fort Benning in Georgia. He had been assigned to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, since 2004. He was killed Oct. 22 when he and dozens of U.S. special operations troops and Iraqi forces raided a compound near the city of Kirkuk, freeing approximately 70 Iraqi prisoners from captivity. “He made it through so many (tours). We just thought he was invincible,” Joshua Wheeler’s aunt, Linda Cole, said. Wheeler deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq 14 times and received 11 Bronze Stars during his career, and was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and Silver Star. A private burial was held Nov. 18 at Arlington National Cemetery following a memorial service in North Carolina, where Wheeler lived with his family before he died. He is survived by his wife and four children.
11/30/2015 12:00 PM
OOLOGAH, Okla. – Father Christmas will be at the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch near Oologah from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Dec. 11-12 for “Will’s Country Christmas,” a first-ever holiday celebration at the ranch. Advance tickets are on sale now at $10 for adults (one night only). Children 17 and under are free. Tickets are limited and must be purchased in advance. They are available at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum admissions desk, Lakeside State Bank in Oologah and RCB Bank, 86th Street in Owasso. Hayrides, caroling, brass trio, walking lantern tours of house and grounds, visiting the house where Rogers was born and stories of Christmas on the prairie will be highlighted by a visit from Father Christmas and photo opportunities. There will be vendors for last minute Christmas shopping. Staff from the Murrell Home at Tahlequah, an Oklahoma Historical Society Museum, will be on hand to help make Christmas ornaments to take home. Because it is a two-day event, people can enjoy Christmas parades in area towns and come to the Birthplace for “Country Christmas” later or on alternate nights. Hot chocolate and cider will be available for purchase when visitors return from the hayride or walk around the ranch grounds. Will’s favorite food, beans and ham, will also be sold with Indian fry bread. Ample parking will be provided in the airstrip area of the ranch. Santa will be available for photo opportunities at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Nov. 28, Dec. 5 and Dec. 12 Admission is free for members and ages 17 and under. For more information, call 918-341-0719 or toll free 1-800-324-9455 or visit <a href="http://www.willrogers.com" target="_blank">www.willrogers.com</a>.
11/27/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) - In preparation for upcoming balloting, the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission has made notification of its Dec. 1 election and eligible candidates. The election is Dec. 1 for commissioners representing Cherokee and Adair counties. Those elected serve a term of four years on the OSRC Board of Commissioners, which numbers 12. Running for Cherokee County representative are Gary Dill, incumbent John Larson, Kathy Ryals and Howard Tate. Incumbent George Stubblefield and Kathy Tibbits are running for Adair County representative. Steve Randall, incumbent, is unopposed for the Delaware County seat. Under its rules, the OSRC must post prior public notice of the election in five conspicuous locations in both Cherokee and Adair counties. It must also be published twice in newspapers of record in each county and sent by email to all on the OSRC email list. Eligible voters must be registered to vote in Oklahoma, and reside or own real property within 660 feet of a scenic river. They must also have filed a voter registration qualification affidavit with the OSRC between 2001 and Nov. 7, 2015. Absentee voting is prohibited. Voters may cast ballots from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. Cherokee County polling site is OSRC Headquarters, 15971 Highway 10, two miles northeast of Tahlequah. Adair County polling site is the Chewey Area Community Center. For further information contact Ed Fite, OSRC administrator, at 918-456-3251 or write to <a href="mailto: ed.fite@osrc.ok.gov">ed.fite@osrc.ok.gov</a>.
Assistant Editor
11/27/2015 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association held a Nov. 17 press conference at the Gaylord-Pickens Oklahoma Heritage Museum to celebrate tribal gaming’s nearly billion-dollar contribution to education in the state. OIGA officials released findings from the 2015 Inaugural Statewide Economic Impact from Oklahoma Tribal Governmental Gaming study. The study states more than $980 million from Oklahoma-based gaming tribes has been deposited into two state education funds in the 10 years since gaming was approved by a statewide vote. “We are thrilled to share the results of this important study, and happy to have such a great story to tell about our vital and growing industry,” OIGA Chairman Brian Foster said. “We are very proud of the enormous contribution our Oklahoma tribes in gaming have been able to make to education and look forward to that number growing substantially in the coming years. With our continued commitment to financially supporting education in Oklahoma, we want to become a driving force in making our state’s education system one others want to emulate.’’ According to the Cherokee Nation’s gaming compact with Oklahoma, the tribe pays fees on Class III gaming activities to the state’s treasurer. The compact states the tribe pays 4 percent of the first $10 million, 5 percent of the next $10 million and 6 percent of any subsequent amount of adjusted gross revenues received by the tribe from its electronic games, as well as a monthly 10 percent payment of net wins from non-house banked card games. In exchange for these fees, the tribe receives certain geographic exclusivity, limits to the number of gaming machines at existing horse racing tracks and the prohibition of non-tribal operation of certain machines and covered games. Prior to the 2004 approval of State Question 712, Oklahoma-based tribes could only operate Class I or Class II gaming, which did not require state compacts. According to OK.gov, there are now 34 tribes that have state gaming compacts. According to a Nov. 16 Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission report, the CN has paid $162.9 million in gaming exclusivity fees, or compact fees, to the state since 2005. That report also states that $12.1 million in compact fees had been paid this year, with four months remaining. According to the report, compact fees include payments to the state, Fair Meadows racetrack in Tulsa and the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission. The Nation’s payments to the state alone total $111.7 million since 2005, according to the CNGC report. Principal Chief Bill John Baker said the OIGA study shows tribal governments have and will continue to make the state stronger and better for all Oklahomans. “For the Cherokee Nation and other tribes in Oklahoma, gaming represents economic opportunities that improve the lives of our tribal citizens. But secondary economic impacts from gaming revenues are equally important. The direct revenue we pay to the state of Oklahoma is significant, but the Cherokee Nation and other tribes also support thousands and thousands of jobs. That impact on Oklahoma families is immeasurable,” he said. “Money generated by our casinos also creates additional educational opportunities for our children, improves roads and infrastructure in our neighborhoods, provides greater access to quality health care and creates homeownership opportunities for our citizens. Our impact on the lives of Oklahomans is very real. Since the passage of State Question 712, 10 years ago, the tangible results have far surpassed initial expectations, and we are eager to continue our work making Oklahoma better for all.” According to OIGA, the state initially projected $71 million per year in revenue from gaming compacts. Other highlights of the study were: • The total estimated impact on Oklahoma from gaming was nearly $6.2 billion in 2014, • Tribal gaming is now Oklahoma’s 19th largest employment sector, • In 2014, tribal gaming supported 23,277 jobs – 19,523 of which were full-time positions, • Tribal gaming workers earned $1.16 billion in wages and benefits in 2014, and • Gaming workers paid more than $264 million in state and federal payroll taxes in 2014. For more information on the OIGA study, go to <a href="http://www.oiga.org" target="_blank">www.oiga.org</a>.
11/26/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – On Nov. 21, the 2015-16 Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Councilors were sworn into office to begin serving and potentially help shape future tribal policy. “It’s going to be a good opportunity to get involved and make a difference and build relationships within the tribe,” Laurel Reynolds, a Claremore High School sophomore, said. The 17-member Council learns the CN Constitution and bylaws and identifies issues affecting Cherokee youths to pass on to the Tribal Council and administration. The leadership program started in 1989 and has 184 alumni. Students meet monthly and serve as tribal ambassadors. “The best days of the Cherokee Nation are in front of us and we need leaders in every field imaginable from doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, administrators and business people. Leadership starts with young people like you, who are willing to serve,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “The Tribal Youth Council is an opportunity for young Cherokees from all over the 14-county tribal jurisdiction to gain exposure to our tribal government, get to know the elected officials and have a voice in the discussions that will impact the Cherokee Nation today and in the future.” The 2015-16 Tribal Youth Council members are Taylor Armbrister, of Kansas; Jori Cowley, of Vinita; Bradley Fields, of Locust Grove; Amy Hembree, of Tahlequah; Camerin James, of Fort Gibson; Austin Jones, of Hulbert; Destiny Matthews, of Watts; Emily Messimore, of Claremore; Treyton Morris, of Salina; Sarah Pilcher, of Westville; Sunday Plumb, of Tahlequah; Laurel Reynolds, of Claremore; Abigail Shepherd, of Ochelata; Julie Thornton, of Gore; Chelbie Turtle of Tahlequah; Jackson Wells, of Tahlequah; and Sky Wildcat, of Tahlequah.
11/26/2015 12:00 PM
KETCHUM, Okla. – Pine Lodge Resort at Grand Lake is inviting people to its 12th annual “Winter Wonderland Christmas Light Tour” seven nights a week from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. from Nov. 26 through January 1. The “old fashion” Christmas light display features nearly half a million lights, lighted antique vehicles, a nativity scene and a host of characters. Admission is free and visitors may drive or walk through the light displays. Pine Lodge Resort is located one-hour northeast of Tulsa and 2.5 miles east of Ketchum off of Hwy 85. The resort, owned by Art and June Box, a Cherokee Nation citizen, sits near Grand Lake and has 17 cabins, seven mobile homes and RV sites for rent. The couple opened Pine Lodge Resort 15 years ago. Ten minutes away from the resort is golfing, a swim beach, spas, hiking, wave runner rentals and the South Grand Lake Regional Airport with free shuttles to and from the airport provided by the Pine Lodge Resort staff. The lodge is also close to casual and fine dining. Groups may reserve the resort’s clubhouse for dinners or special occasions. The resort has won the “Crystal Pelican Award” given by the Grand Lake Association for “The Most Outstanding Visitor’s Accommodations.” For more information, call 918-782-1400 or visit the Pine Lodge website at <a href="http://www.pinelodgeresort.com" target="_blank">www.pinelodgeresort.com</a>. You can also find the resort on Facebook.