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
01/30/2015 12:00 PM
STILWELL, Okla. – A disabled Cherokee Nation citizen with a love for hunting was able to partake in hunts thanks to the assistance of a local game warden and an eye surgeon from Sherman, Texas. Oklahoma Game Warden Jared Cramer knew of CN citizen Rick Tabor’s love of hunting and his desire to hunt even though he was born disabled and confined to a wheelchair. With the help of Cramer and eye surgeon Bob Burlingame, Tabor was able to realize his dream of hunting elk this past fall. “Cramer had come to know Rick, and because of Rick’s desire to hunt, despite physical disabilities that would sideline most, he was determined to give this bright young man an opportunity to hunt,” Burlingame said. Burlingame purchased a ranch in Sequoyah and Adair counties and turned it into a wildlife haven while maintaining it as a timber and cattle ranch. Four years ago, Burlingame and Cramer met when Cramer visited Burlingame’s ranch. From that meeting, Burlingame said, Cramer and Tabor were to form an unusual alliance, the purpose of which was to enable Tabor to pursue his hunting dreams. Sam Munholland of the Oklahoma Youth Hunting and Shooting Sports Association assisted Burlingame and Cramer in locating a device that would allow Tabor to hunt. The wheelchair device was procured from beadaptive.com, a web-based company specializing in devices designed to aid disabled hunters. It was equipped with a brand new 30-06 rifle topped with a pistol scope and presented to Tabor for high school graduation this past spring. Cramer and Tabor wasted no time in sighting in the new rifle. After dispatching several hogs on Burlingame’s ranch later in the summer, Tabor’s first fall hunting trip in November proved successful after he harvested a buck and a doe. Cramer again visited with Burlingame regarding hunting possibilities for Tabor. Cramer and Tabor hoped to have a more challenging hunt. Three years previously, Burlingame had stocked Hunt Mill Hollow Ranch with elk, and a trophy bull was on the agenda as Tabor’s next hunting adventure. In December, the team of Cramer, Tabor, Burlingame and fellow hunter B.J. Latta waited patiently for an opportunity. Cramer, who had long wanted Burlingame to hunt with Tabor, gave up his spot in the hunting blind, taking a position farther south to watch the action. “Suddenly B.J. hoarsely whispered, ‘I see horns.’ Sure enough, a large bull loomed in the short brush adjacent to the trail they were hunting. After 30 tense minutes of wondering whether the massive bull would step out, B.J. once again exclaimed, ‘He’s stepping out,’” Burlingame said. “Rick readied himself for the shot, guiding his gun with a special aligning device that he operates with his mouth. After lining up his crosshairs just behind the bull’s shoulder, he coolly announced ‘I’m about to take the shot.’ The rifle roared, and the bull staggered as Rick’s bullet found its mark, a perfect hit. He followed up with a second shot to put the bull down for good.” Tabor’s hunting friends celebrated back at Burlingame’s barn. The bull was a true trophy for Tabor, Burlingame said. “Thus ended a fantastic hunt by a gutsy young man with physical challenges that most would consider insurmountable. It should be noted that none of this would have occurred without the hard work and dedication of Jared Cramer, who befriended Rick and tirelessly worked to make his hunting dreams a reality,” Burlingame said.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/29/2015 12:17 PM
WEST SILOAM SPRINGS, Okla. – The eighth annual Reindeer Games Poker Tournament at Cherokee Casino & Hotel West Siloam Springs helped raise $1,000 for the Oaks Indian Mission. The funds were raised to ensure that children would be able to celebrate important milestones in 2015. “We are very happy that Cherokee Nation Entertainment and Cherokee Nation Businesses continue to support the children we care for,” Oaks Indian Mission Executive Director Vance Blackfox said. “Gifts such as this and the ongoing support from casino employees and guests are crucial to providing the children with structure, a place to call home and educational opportunities that will bring hope for them and their futures.” Those participating in the tournament were given an opportunity to purchase additional poker chips. The money generated from the rebuy was designated as a contribution to OIM, raising approximately $1,000. “I’m proud to see our employees working hard to make sure the children of Oaks Indian Mission feel special throughout the year,” Tony Nagy, Cherokee Casino & Hotel West Siloam Springs general manager, said. “This is something they have continued to be passionate about. Making birthday memories is important for any child, but these children especially need loved during their special day.” Aside from the donation of money, CNE, CNB and OIM collaborate year round to help better the lives of each child at the mission. Employees from CNE and CNB volunteer at the mission and serve as storytellers, mentors and tutors. Cherokee Casino & Hotel West Siloam Springs employees also provide monthly birthday cakes to the youth at OIM. OIM cares for Native American youth ages 4 to 18. They house approximately 36 youth during the school year with a majority of them staying during the summer months. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.oaksindianmission.org" target="_blank">www.oaksindianmission.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/27/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials have told tribal employees that they will now text or call employees regarding possible office closings or late start times. “This administration wants to ensure our employees are informed, and quickly, about decisions that affect their work day,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “In the past, when a foot of snow or ice patches covered the ground, our employees called our complex early that morning to listen to an operator recording to see if tribal offices would be open at 8 a.m., or they would text co-workers or bosses to ask.” To alert employees earlier the tribe will use Blackboard Connect, “a mass notification service.” “This is how it works: the system allowed our IT department to plug in all Cherokee Nation issued employee cell phones into a call list. When inclement weather strikes and our administration makes a decision to close the complex, or start work later than normal, employees will receive a phone call or text message, or both, as early as possible with such updates recorded by our Communications office,” according to a CN Communications release. “School systems, such as Fort Gibson, and city governments, such as Tahlequah, use similar messaging systems to keep their stakeholders informed.” CN employees who use a personal cell phone can send a name, title, department and phone number to communications@cherokee.org if they would like to receive the same notifications. “We realize it may take using this system a few times before it’s seamless, but I believe this will be another tool that increases the safety for employees and keeps you all better informed,” the release states. “Employees may also check Cherokee Nation Facebook and Cherokee Nation Twitter for the latest inclement weather related work updates as well.”
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
01/27/2015 11:01 AM
Tahlequah Sequoyah certainly has picked a proper time to peak during the season. The Indians and Lady Indians have taken advantage of a grueling January slate. The boys (11-5) are riding a seven-game win streak and the girls (13-3) have a six-game win streak of their own, too. Saturday, Jan. 24, Sequoyah claimed the boys and girls championship trophies at the Tri-State Classic in Jay. That type of domination couldn’t have come at a better time with No 1 boys and girls’ basketball teams in Class 4A coming to Sequoyah on Tuesday, Jan. 27. Fort Gibson is a combined 27-1, as it has dominated its opponents throughout the season consistently. The girls game will start at 6:30 p.m. and the boys will follow at 8 p.m. The same night, Sequoyah will honor a group who helped pave the way for basketball success at SHS--the Native American “Dream Team,” of 1998. “This was the team that broke the ice, being the first SHS team to reach the state basketball tournament,” Sequoyah Athletic Director Marcus Crittenden said. Leroy Qualls, who is now a superintendent, was the head coach of the boys team. Also, Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor David Walkingstick was a member of the team, too, among notables. In addition to the ceremony honoring the team, an autographed basketball from a notable Oklahoma City Thunder guard can be won, too. “Thanks to a generous donation from BancFirst of Tahlequah, we have a basketball autographed by Russell Westbrook that we will raffle off the same night,” Crittenden said.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
01/27/2015 08:15 AM
CATOOSA, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Entertainment purchased three properties each in 2014. The properties total approximately 152 acres with the largest being in Rogers County. CNE purchased 89.98 acres on Sept. 30 from John and Velma Mullen. According to Rogers County records, the cost was $3.7 million. The land is located west/northwest of CNE’s Cherokee Hills Golf Course. The golf course is located at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. The Cherokee Phoenix reported in September that the acquired property would be used for the golf course. According to artist renderings, “Cherokee Outlets” a premium outlet shop and entertainment and dining zone that was announced on Sept. 10 is expected to be built behind the Hard Rock and could possibly use land occupied by the golf course and its clubhouse. CNB officials said they were awaiting a master plan for “Cherokee Outlets” as well as a plan from a golf course architect. “We are in the process of negotiating with the golf course architect. I anticipate getting that agreement in place in the next couple of weeks and starting to do some preliminary work there,” CNB Executive Vice President Charles Garrett said in September. According to CNE Communications, CNB officials are still planning work to be done on the golf course. CNE also purchased approximately 6 acres for $256,500 in Sequoyah County, according to county records. Cherokee Nation Property Management purchased the land from Benjamin and Judy Cowan and later deeded it to Cherokee Nation Construction Resources for housing. CNCR will build 23 homes that the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation will purchase after construction is complete. On July 2, Jim and Connie Jolliff sold 57.75 acres in Delaware County to CNPM for $85,000, according to county records. “This property is directly south/east of and abutting the Saline District Courthouse property owned by the Cherokee Nation,” CNE Communications officials said. However, CNB officials did not release the land’s intended use citing “competitive information exemption.” The three properties the CN bought are located in Cherokee County. Two properties were purchased from HLD Investments, a corporation in Tahlequah owned by the Mason and Minor families. On Nov. 3, the CN purchased a property and its building known as the “Clinic in the Woods,” which is located near W.W. Hastings Hospital off Boone Street. According to CN Communications, the tribe paid $1,078,500 for the 1.536 acres, and the building’s anticipated use will be for the tribe’s Behavioral Health Program. Also purchased on Nov. 3 was the Cascade property totaling less than 1 acre. It’s located near Northeastern Health System Tahlequah and Hastings Hospital. The property cost $771,500 and will be used for Health Services. The tribe also bought property located at 120 E. Balentine Road in Tahlequah for its motor vehicle tag office. It was purchased on Jan. 30 from Don Smith for $300,000, according to county records.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/26/2015 03:45 PM
LINCOLN, Neb. – Vision Maker Media will be offering summer, or fall, 10-week, paid internships for Native American and Alaska Native college students at various public TV stations. “Providing experience for Native students in the media is vitally important to ensure that we can continue a strong tradition of digital storytelling,” Shirley K. Sneve, Vision Maker Media executive director, said. “We are grateful for the support of local PBS stations in helping us achieve this goal.” During the internship at least two short-form videos on local Native American or Alaska Native people, events or issues for on-air or online distribution should be completed. With major funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the purpose of this paid summer internship is to increase the journalism and production skills for the selected college student. One of the major goals of the internship will be to increase the quantity and quality of multimedia reporting available to public television audiences and other news outlets. Students interested in applying for this internship opportunity must apply online at <a href="http://www.visionmakermedia.org/intern" target="_blank">www.visionmakermedia.org/intern</a> by March 24. The application process requires submission of a cover letter, resume, work samples, an official school transcript and a letter of recommendation from a faculty member or former supervisor. Top applicants will be notified in late April with the internships spanning between May 1 and Dec. 18. Up to 10 public television stations will be selected to host an intern and an award of $5,000 to the station will be used to provide payment to the intern, cover any travel expenses and administrative fees. Stations that would like to be considered for hosting a public media intern must apply online at <a href="http://www.visionmakermedia.org/intern" target="_blank">www.visionmakermedia.org/intern</a> by Feb. 3.