Sixth grade students from the Cherokee Language Immersion School dance to the song “The Twist” while singing the song’s lyrics in Cherokee. The class won first place for its performance during the 10th annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair on April 3 in Norman, Okla. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Immersion students win trophies at language fair
Cherokee Language Immersion School sixth graders show off their first place trophy for winning the Sixth through Eighth Grade Large Group Song category at the 10th annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair on April 3 in Norman, Okla. From left are Lauren Hummingbird, Alayna Harkreader, Maggie Sourjohn, Sean Sikora, Cambria Bird, Cree Drowningbear, Emilee Chavez, Lauren Grayson and Cheyenne Drowningbear. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
NORMAN, Okla. – Students from the Cherokee Language Immersion School did well during competition April 2-3 at the 10th annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History at the University of Oklahoma.
The theme of this year’s fair, which hosted about 600 students from more than 20 Oklahoma tribes, was “I Am My Language.” Along with showing off language skills, students also had the opportunity to compete in art, essay and poetry competitions using their respective languages.
The immersion school’s second, fifth and sixth grades won first place awards for their respective performances using the Cherokee language. The school’s first graders won second place for their presentation and the kindergarten class received a fourth place prize. The performances were judged on use and knowledge of language and creativity.
The immersion school also placed in the film and video competitions. The sixth grade won first place for its “Tsalagi” DVD produced in the Cherokee language. Immersion school fifth grader Jolie Morgan placed second for her Cherokee language video, and the school won third place in the Third through Sixth grade category for the video “Tsalagi Tsunadeloquasdi.”
The winning immersion school classes and individual winners each received a trophy, and all of the students who competed in the language fair received a medal and a T-shirt.
“Our children at the Cherokee Nation immersion program have so much fun every year. ONAYLF has been so far the only place outside the school that offers our kids a place where they can practice their language in a public setting,” said parent Andrew Sikora, whose son Sean participated at the fair with the sixth grade class. “I will not exaggerate if I say that ONAYLF is a language highlight of the year.”
Students in grades kindergarten through high school are invited to the fair, which provides a venue for them to speak their Native languages publicly. The event also gives students the opportunity to dress up in traditional clothing and regalia.
Judges for the fair’s competitions are volunteers from Oklahoma tribes who speak or appreciate their Native languages.
CN citizen Christine Armer once served as a judge for the fair but now coordinates it. She is a Cherokee language professor at OU and said the fair is one of her favorite events of year because it brings her joy to see youth interested in their culture and language.
“My grandfather once told me that language is who you are,” she said.
She said if the next generations of students take an interest in their languages and see their importance, there’s hope that the cultural values found in Native American languages will be around for many generations.
Languages represented at the fair included Apache, Arapaho, Cayuga, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Comanche, Coushatta, Dakota, Euchee, Hasinai (Caddo), Ho-Chunk, Jiwere (Otoe), Kanza (Kaw), Keres, Kickapoo, Kiowa, Mohawk, Muskogee (Creek), Navajo, Osage, Pawnee, Pima, Prairie Band Potawatomi, Sauk, Seminole, Seneca, Shawnee, Shoshone, Ute, Wichita and Zuni.
For more information about the language fair, visit http://nal.snomnh.ou.edu/onaylf
or visit the fair’s Facebook page.
CHEROKEE, N.C. (AP) – Certified teacher Rainy Brake learned Cherokee as a second language after she began teaching elementary classes at New Kituwah Academy six years ago. She works alongside Louise Brown, who is fluent in Cherokee. In the beginning, Brake interacted very little with students. She took the student quizzes and did projects alongside them to become more fluent.
Now, however, she’s animated in class. On a recent morning, Brake raised her arms and used her voice dramatically to teach a kindergarten class about snakes in South America as they used construction paper to make anacondas. Here are excerpts from the session, taken from an audio recording translated by Brake:
“My name is Rainy,” she says, first in Spanish, then in Cherokee. She tells the children her name in Spanish sounds like the word for soap. The kindergarteners find that hilarious.
Except for Brake giving her Spanish name, she and Brown conduct the rest of the class in Cherokee.
“This is a rain forest,” Brake says, reading from a book.
“What is ‘rain forest?’” asks Brown.
“You read it” Brake instructs, and the children read together.
“What is ‘agasgi?’” asks Brown.
“Dance!” says one child — but the answer isn’t right.
“Water going down,” Brake says, correcting the answer.
“It is always wet in a rain forest,” Brown says. “Outside it looks warm, but it is always wet.”
“This is called the ‘Amazon,’ Brake says. “It is a very big forest. And these are Native Americans. This is their home. Are they the same as Cherokees?”
“No,” the children reply.
“And there, this is a canoe,” Brake says. “This is a long canoe.”
“That is long!” the children say, gasping.
“Look here. Do you know this picture?” Brake says. “This is the South American natives’ blow gun. But, this is the Cherokee blow gun.”
“Are they the same? Who has made one of these?” asks Brown.
“I have! I have!” the children chorus.
“Whose dad or granddad has made one of these?” says Brown.
“My father made one!” says one child.
“My mom made one,” says another.
“OK, here are South American animals,” Brake says. “What is this one?”
“A big snake!” the children reply, gasping again.
“That’s right. It’s an anaconda.”
“Anaconda,” the children repeat.
“A big, long, snake,” Brake says. “What do snakes say?” The kids hiss.
“This will be your snake,” Brake says, passing out paper. “First, choose your color. Hmm, I think mine will be green first. Here, just a bit of glue. Do you see it? And here, we make a circle. Now in this circle — “
“Oh, I know how to do this!” says one child.
“You know how? Great,” Brake replies.
Together, they cut out paper and paste together their snakes.
CHEROKEE, N.C. (AP) – Kevin Tafoya grew up hearing Cherokee all around him — his mother, a grandmother and grandfather, aunts and an uncle all spoke the language that now is teetering on the edge of extinction.
Yet his mother purposely didn’t teach him.
“She told us she had a hard time in school transitioning from Cherokee to English,” Tafoya said. “She didn’t want us to have the same problem so she never really taught us when we were younger.”
Now the 37-year-old wants something different for his 6-year-old son, Moke, and his 2-year-old daughter, Marijane. Both are enrolled at New Kituwah Academy, a Cherokee language immersion school.
The language is “probably only the last real thing about being Cherokee that we have left,” he said. “I mean, we have our different arts and stuff. But I think our language really defines us as it does any people.”
With fewer than 300 native Cherokee speakers remaining in North Carolina, the clock is ticking to preserve not just the language, but a culture too. For the Eastern Band of Cherokee, hopes lie first with six fifth-graders who have attended New Kituwah (pronounced gi-DOO-wah) since they were babies.
“That’s a big thing to hold on the shoulders of kids, that they’re carrying the language,” said Kylie Crowe Shuler, principal of the private school operated by the tribe. “And I don’t want to beat that on them. I want them to enjoy it. And I think that they do.”
The school, which opened in 2004, has about 90 students, with 55 in elementary and 35 in early childhood. Kituwah is a powerful word for the Cherokee and the name that they call themselves. The word can have different meanings, including mother town or the center. The area called Kituwah is located about 10 miles west of Cherokee.
From their earliest years, students learn only in Cherokee. Only in the higher grades is English introduced, mostly as a bow to parents concerned about what happens after their children leave the school.
The fifth-graders, members of the first class to attend New Kituwah, seem to grasp what’s at stake.
“We’re trying to keep a culture going,” Haley Smith, 11, said in a recent interview.
Bo Taylor, 45, directs the Museum of the Cherokee Indian; he learned the language as an adult. One of the fifth graders is his 10-year-old daughter Abigail.
“I cannot emphasize enough this first class,” he said. “These first kids, these parents that were willing to risk their child’s futures and gamble with the belief that Cherokee was important, that’s amazing because they were guinea pigs.”
Next year, the fifth-graders will get to continue that schooling, thanks to a decision by the tribal council to fund New Kituwah Academy for grades 6-12. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accredited New Kituwah in January.
Cherokee had no writing system until the early 1800s, when the renowned Sequoyah wrote a syllabary to put its sounds on paper. While English has one symbol for every letter, Cherokee has one symbol for each of its 80-plus syllables. Unlike many other languages, which focus on nouns and adjectives, Cherokee focuses on verbs. One verb can reveal how many people are talking, what they’re doing and how near they are.
The near demise of the language came largely thanks to the U.S. government. Most Cherokee were forced to make a brutal march from the Southeast to Oklahoma in the 1830s. A few stayed behind, keeping a desperate grip on their way of life.
Then, beginning in the late 1800s, officials set up boarding schools to eradicate the American Indian languages. Teachers punished students for speaking their native tongues.
Without New Kituwah or something like it, “the Cherokee language will for sure die,” said Walt Wolfram, director of the North Carolina Language and Life Project at N.C. State University. “Lots of people remain skeptical about whether languages can be revived. But the (other) option is certain death. In that sense, Kituwah Academy is the only antidote for what will be inevitable.”
New Kituwah is one part of the Eastern Band’s effort to preserve the language, said Annette Clapsaddle, director of the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, which has given almost $2 million to the school. Other initiatives include Cherokee language programs at public schools and a Cherokee studies program at Western Carolina University, she said.
Throughout the U.S., Native American tribes in recent years have launched efforts to preserve their languages.
The Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma opened the Cherokee Immersion Charter School in 2002, said Julie Hubbard, a spokeswoman for Cherokees there. Students start at age 3 and go through eighth grade, when they can transfer to a public school or to Sequoyah High School, where the Cherokee immersion students study together, she said.
New Kituwah has had problems finding teachers fluent in Cherokee. Most native speakers are in their 60s and 70s and struggle with health issues, school administrators said.
Tafoya said he worries that his children may fall behind in some subjects, but the benefits of New Kituwah outweigh any downsides.
His 2-year-old, Marijane, is picking up some Cherokee words, Tafoya said. When Tafoya picks her up at school, she’ll ask “Gah-ZUH a-GAH-shgaa?” meaning where is Rain, which is Moke’s Cherokee name. And she knows a favorite word of 2-year-olds in two languages: “No.” In Cherokee, that’s “Ha-DEE.”
Taylor said he believes the immersion school was the right choice for his girls. “Cherokee, it goes to the core of who we are,” he said. While some American Indian cultures are in jeopardy, New Kituwah offers hope, he said.
“We’re singing our songs again,” he said. “We’re telling our stories. And the one thing that we have is hope.”
Even though she forgets words sometimes, Haley is certain that she and the other fifth-graders will never abandon the Cherokee language.
“A lot of people ask us, what if we forget our language,” she said. “And all you can tell them is it’s a part of life. You can’t just forget that.”
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A bronze bust honoring the first female Cherokee National Treasure celebrated for reviving Southeastern style pottery is now on display at the Nation’s W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex.
Cherokee artist Jane Osti sculpted the bust of the late Anna Belle Sixkiller Mitchell.
The tribe and Northeastern State University commissioned the bronze sculpture in the 1980s. After its unveiling in 1990, the statue was kept at NSU’s Bacone House. It’s now displayed at the Tribal Complex.
“The essence of bringing the bronze statue to the Cherokee Nation to share with Cherokee citizens in honor of the 25th anniversary of its completion warms my heart,” Tribal Councilor Victoria Mitchell Vazquez, the daughter of Sixkiller Mitchell, said. “Having this statue so prominently displayed publicly shines a light on the achievements of my mother, who was a pioneer in her field, and restored what could have been a lost tradition.”
Sixkiller Mitchell grew up in Jay. She was a self-taught artist who began in 1969 after her husband requested she make a replica of Sequoyah’s pipe. That single project and an encounter with the University of Arkansas’ archeology museum archives led her to decades of studying, researching and reviving Southeastern style pottery.
Southeastern style pottery is the traditional art of the Woodland Indians, including Cherokees, who originated from Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Alabama. Artifacts include animal effigies, ceremonial objects and wood-fired vessels stamped with unique designs such as water symbols.
“She didn’t know how to fire pots so Dad built her a three-sided fireplace, and she would fire pottery in metal tubs using wood, letting the coals burn down and fire all four sides, which was as close to traditional as possible,” Vazquez said. “She would dig the white yellow clay from the pond or creek bank in Craig County, and what she learned from more than 35 years of trial and error did revive it.”
From start to finish, it would take several weeks to process the clay, dry it, grind it, mix it with water and design and fire it.
Sixkiller Mitchell not only revived Southeastern pottery tradition but also passed it on. Young artists asked to work with her since she was a Johnson-O’Malley Program director in Vinita schools.
In 1988, she was designated a Cherokee National Treasure. In 2008, CN Education Services presented her with the Educator of Arts and Humanities Lifetime Achievement Award.
Sixkiller Mitchell died in 2012. Her art is displayed at the Vinita Health Center, at Cherokee Casino West Siloam Springs and in permanent collections at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Cherokee Heritage Center and Fred Jones Museum at University of Oklahoma.
Osti was an NSU student working on her fine arts degree when she met Sixkiller Mitchell to interview her for an assignment. Sixkiller Mitchell later became Osti’s teacher and mentor. The bust was Osti’s first major piece of work, which she took on for free. The tribe and NSU paid to have it bronzed.
“My great admiration and friendship with her is how the sculpture came about. I admired her work and how she revived Cherokee pottery,” Osti said. “She was my mentor for all the years I knew her. Anna Belle was the first person to teach me the Native American way of making pottery.”
In 2005, Osti followed in Mitchell’s footsteps by becoming only the second person to be recognized as a Cherokee National Treasure for pottery.
Vazquez also received the Cherokee National Treasure award for traditional pottery in 2012, following in her mother’s footsteps.
She and Osti established a Cherokee National Treasures’ mentoring program that is funded with Tribal Council dollars. So far, four artisans now teach their skills to other Cherokees in the Tahlequah and Locust Grove area.
The tribe will display the statue for at least the next year. The Nation displays Cherokee art in each of its buildings, casinos and health centers to educate citizens about Cherokee history, culture and heritage through visual art.
NEW ECHOTA, Ga. – The New Echota State Historic Site near Calhoun is a significant site in Cherokee history and is still used to teach that history. In 2009, it faced budget and staff cuts from Georgia and has relied more on the volunteer group Friends of New Echota for maintenance and staffing.
“Without them the site would have really taken a much bigger and negative impact from the 2009 budget and staff reductions. There are lots of places people can go to see old cabins, old houses, and artifacts from around the western (North) Carolina, northern Georgia areas, so it is really the people working here that can make an impact on a visitor's experience,” New Echota Site Manager David Gomez said. “With a trained and knowledgeable Friends volunteer filling in where staff is no longer available, the visit can become a great experience again. Seeing the print shop is not nearly as good as going in the print shop and having someone knowledgeable about printing history and the Cherokee Phoenix story. That makes all the difference in the world.”
[BLOCKQUOTE]Visitors to the site can see 12 original and reconstructed buildings including a council house, courthouse, print shop and an 1805 store, as well as outbuildings such as smokehouses, corncribs and barns.
A legislative act in 1825 by the Cherokee National Council established New Echota as the tribe’s capital. The Cherokee Phoenix, the first Native American newspaper, was established at the capital, and on Dec. 29, 1835, what remained of Cherokee lands in the East were illegally signed away by men led by Major Ridge, his son John Ridge and Elias Boudinot, who had served as the first Cherokee Phoenix editor.
FONE President Elaine Wheat Watkins said FONE is a nonprofit organization that operates as a chapter of Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites. FONE assists Gomez with planning, organizing and implementing special events. FONE also promotes awareness, support and involvement with the site.
“We regularly clean and staff the buildings for group tours to enhance the visitor experience,” she said.
Recently the group planted flowers, purchased materials to build a security/privacy fence adjacent to the center, worked on new walking trails at the site, donated bee traps to help protect buildings and donated purple martin gourd birdhouses.
FONE also got a $10,000 grant to develop electronic-based tour enhancements for smart phones and tablets.
“This will provide video based tours for the six major buildings on the site: middle-class cabin, council house, supreme court house, Worcester house, tavern and print shop, and provide upgrades and enhancements for the museum,” Watkins said. “We plan to add additional items such as authentic Cherokee baskets and pottery. With budget cuts limiting interpretive rangers, electronic tours will greatly enhance the guest experience for both individuals and group tours, including student field trips.”
FONE also hosts the Remember the Removal bicycle riders from the Cherokee Nation and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians who begin their nearly 1,000-mile ride from the historic site each June.
“I can’t imagine the pain of being forced to leave one’s beloved home and the hardships endured because of the removal. If we can help preserve the site, we can use it as a way to share the story, as well as the culture and let people know that the Cherokee not only survived but thrived,” Watkins said.
Gomez said FONE members have a good online presence and use social media to promote the site. They also work festivals, fairs and other regional events by setting up a “New Echota and Chief Vann” table to share information about the site’s significance. Chief James Vann was a wealthy Cherokee leaders who owned a two-story brick home, which is now a part of the Chief Vann House Historic Site about 20 miles northeast of the New Echota site.
“As stakeholders, they (FONE members) are a sounding voice that can keep New Echota in the thoughts of our local and state elected officials. We have recently added an additional day of open operations at New Echota and Chief Vann House Sites due in part to support from our Friends organizations,” Gomez said.
The new operating hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
People can join FONE by visiting the New Echota site or by visiting <a href="http://friendsofgastateparks.org" target="_blank">http://friendsofgastateparks.org</a> and designating New Echota as their chapter preference. For more information, call 706-624-1321. FONE may be emailed at <a href="mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a>.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A Native Arts and Cultures Foundation representative visited the Cherokee Arts Center on March 10 to reach out to area Native artists and share information on applying for NACF grants.
Andre Bouchard, NACF program officer, said this year the NACF will give out 30 artist scholarships of up to $20,000 in six disciplines: literature, film, music, performing arts, traditional arts and visual arts. The NACF gives grants to Native American artists in 50 states. Bouchard said the foundation hopes to provide more than 30 grants next year.
Bouchard told the artists at the meeting what the NACF looks for in grant applications.
He said 80 percent of the score given to an application is based on the artist’s work sample submitted with it. The artist’s project description and “vision” makes up the remaining 20 percent of their score. Native artists are allowed to submit one application per cycle to NACF.
“The need is great. There are a lot of extremely talented Native artists out there and unfortunately not all of them apply every year. Visual arts are admittedly the most competitive of those (disciplines). We did twice as many visual arts applications,” Bouchard said. “We hope to keep expanding in the future and helping out more Native artists wherever we go.”
Bouchard recommended multi-disciplined artists apply in the discipline in which the artist is strongest.
Another reason Bouchard visits tribal areas is to help demystify the idea of grant seeking and lend some skills and “strategic approach” for Native grant seekers.
He said there are also family foundations and community foundations that provide grants to artists. He said it’s important to know a foundation’s cycle or when it is accepting grants.
“Almost all foundations out there will not accept proposals out of cycle, so sending in your information or an application when they are not accepting sometimes can put you on their radar and can sometimes also annoy them,” he said.
Another important part of seeking grants from a family or community foundation is to make sure the application is read thoroughly. Are they giving to artists like you? Are they giving to people who are doing the things you are doing?
Bouchard said many municipal and public libraries have a tool called Foundation Center that helps artists research the foundations in their state, which ones are giving to artists, and what type of disciplines they are giving to. He also recommended researching where other Native artists are getting grants.
Cherokee Nation citizen Rodslen Brown King of Fort Gibson is a multi-disciplined artist but is “really involved” in weaving baskets. She said she went to the NACF presentation to learn about the grants available to Native artists.
“I just wanted to find out what all I need to do to try and maybe get an award,” she said. “It was really interesting.”
She aid she would take the information she gathered back to her community.
The deadline to apply for a NACF grant is 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on April 6. Artists who are members of federally and state-recognized U.S. tribes, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities can review criteria and complete an application for the fellowship at http://your.culturegrants.org before the deadline. The foundation will announce award recipients in August.
For questions and support, email Bouchard at <a href="mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a>
or call 360-314-2421.
To learn more about the foundation, visit <a href="http://www.nativeartsandcultures.org" target="_blank">www.nativeartsandcultures.org</a>.
WASHINGTON, Okla. – For the second year, the Cherokee Nation, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians are partnering to host “Cherokee Days” April 10-12 at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
The three Cherokee tribes will share the Cherokee story that spans time immemorial to the Trail of Tears to the successes of the modern tribes.
“Gathering collectively in the nation’s capital for ‘Cherokee Days’ is a special collaboration for all of us because it features three distinct tribal governments,” CN Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “However, we all have a shared connection and shared history. We truly come from one fire. Preserving our culture means sharing it with the next generation, and that’s what we will be doing as we showcase our talented artisans and highly respected historians at the Smithsonian Institution.”
The public educational program includes an exhibit showcasing a timeline of historical milestones, live cultural art demonstrations and scheduled cultural performances. Among the activities is a make-and-take experience, which allows children to create traditional Cherokee items.
Cherokees originally inhabited the lands in what are now present-day Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama and Georgia. Following the 1838 forced removal of 16,000 Cherokees to present-day Oklahoma, many defied the relocation and remained in North Carolina.
The Cherokees, who were led by Principal Chief John Ross along the Trail of Tears, established Tahlequah as the CN capital in 1839. The EBCI, which resides in Cherokee, North Carolina, became federally recognized in 1868.
“Our people were separated by miles forcefully; however, we have survived as a distinct people,” said EBCI Principal Chief Michell Hicks. “We look forward to sharing our culture and history with the diverse audience of the Smithsonian Institution as much as we cherish the opportunity to visit and celebrate with our fellow Cherokees. It is my hope that our communities can provide an experience for visitors that will be unlike any other in the nation’s capital.”
In 1984, the tribes met in Red Clay, Tennessee, for the first time since the tribe was divided.
“It is gratifying for the United Keetoowah Cherokees to come to the National Museum of the American Indian as a living culture, one whose history is still in the making, and one whose vibrant people still inhabit the lands of their ancestors,” said UKB Principal Chief George Wickliffe. “It is with humility and pleasure that we share our history, our culture and our traditions with the people of Washington, D. C., and the communities of the National Museum of the American Indian.”
A diverse and multifaceted cultural and educational enterprise, the museum is an active and visible component of the Smithsonian Institution, the world's largest museum complex. The NMAI cares for one of the world's most expansive collections of native objects, including photographs, paper and photo archives and media covering the entire Western Hemisphere, from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego.
For more information, visit <a href="http://www.AmericanIndian.si.edu" target="_blank">www.AmericanIndian.si.edu</a>.