Cherokee Nation Translation Specialist John Ross explains how to use the numeric system created by Sequoyah. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Sequoyah’s numeric system makes comeback

A 2013 calendar written in the Cherokee syllabary includes the year 2013 written in Sequoyah’s numeric system, which was recently deciphered by the Cherokee Nation Translation Department. COURTESY PHOTO This handwritten copy of Sequoyah’s numeric system was created by Translation Specialist John Ross to show how the system works. COURTESY PHOTO
A 2013 calendar written in the Cherokee syllabary includes the year 2013 written in Sequoyah’s numeric system, which was recently deciphered by the Cherokee Nation Translation Department. COURTESY PHOTO
Senior Reporter
11/09/2012 08:42 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A visit by linguist Michael Everson of Dublin, Ireland, in September set in motion an effort to revisit and study Cherokee linguist Sequoyah’s numeric system.

During his visit, Everson met with Cherokee linguists and other language specialists to discuss making a font for Sequoyah’s numeric system for printing and computers, Cherokee Nation Translation Specialist John Ross said.

Everson told Ross and other translators that a system would have to be created before a font could be made. Following Everson’s visit, Ross studied Sequoyah’s numeric system and figured it out in less than two days.
“If somebody really looked at it, it’s simple,” Ross said.

Like he did when matching sounds spoken in the Cherokee language with symbols, Sequoyah created unique, single symbols for numbers 1 through 19 and numbers 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 and 100. So to create the number 31 the symbol for 30 and 1 would be used together. To create the number 500 the symbol for 5 and 100 would be used together.

Ross created a symbol for 0 and for 1 billion and 1 trillion. Sequoyah’s system enabled users to create numerals up to 1 million.

The Cherokee Language Consortium, comprised of Cherokee speakers from the CN, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the United Keetoowah Band, agreed in October to use Sequoyah’s numeric system as he wrote it and to add the symbols Ross created.

“They thought it was pretty neat,” Ross said.

Ross said the only reason he found as to why Sequoyah’s numeric system, created in 1830 in Indian Territory, was never used by the tribe is that some people thought the system was too complicated.

“Really, if you look at it, it’s a shortcut. You don’t have to add all those numbers for a million. Like for a billion, you just have those (three) symbols instead of all those zeros,” he said.

CN Language Technologist Joseph Erb said he believes because Cherokees were already trading with the French, Spanish and British when the system was invented, Arabic numbers were used instead of Sequoyah’s system.

The way that Cherokees count is how Sequoyah built his system, Erb said.

“So, it makes more sense in Cherokee. It’s a neat system, it’s a very Cherokee system, and it’s really nice the translation team made sure to figure out how it works,” he said.

Sequoyah’s numbers have been added to the 2013 Cherokee calendar. Another use for the numeric system would be to teach it to the Cherokee Language Immersion School students, Ross said.

Ultimately, the goal for Erb and the language technology staff is to turn the numeric system into fonts, a “slow process,” Erb said, possibly taking two years before the system appears on smart phones and computer systems.

“It (numeric system) has to be in the Unicode system, so what will have to happen is we’ll have to figure out how the numbering system works, and then we’ll have to have a paper written for it to be encoded into the Unicode system,” he said.

Unicode enables people around the world to use computers in any language. The Cherokee numeric system would have to be turned into a code that computers could read and analyze so the proper Cherokee font for 12, for instance, is displayed.

After that is done, the coded language must go before the international Unicode Consortium for approval. If the consortium approves the code, it’s up to computer companies to adopt the new code, Erb said.

The tribe worked with Everson in the 1990s to put the Cherokee syllabary into code, which was adopted by the Unicode Consortium in 2000. His main area of expertise is with world writing systems, specifically in the representation of these systems in formats for computer and digital media.

“Only few people know how to do this type of work. It’s a very specialty type of work. Michael has done several hundred languages,” Erb said. “For us in language technology, it’s pretty exciting to see us reintroduce a numbering system, and it will be easy to use. Our goal is to make it accessible to everybody.”


About the Author
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M.

He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life.
He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association.

Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. • 918-207-3961
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M. He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life. He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association. Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years.


01/22/2015 10:22 AM
PORTLAND, Ore. – Daniel H. Wilson, author of technology thrillers such as “Robopocalypse,” “Robogenesis,” and “Amped,” has teamed up with Portland game design studio Mountain Machine to produce “Mayday! Deep Space,” a playable science fiction story for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The app made its debut in the Apple App Store on Jan. 7. In the app, players answer a mayday call from a survivor who is stranded on a derelict spaceship and use voice commands to guide him to safety – all while uncovering the terrible secret behind what wiped out the crew. “It’s pure survival-horror with a shocking twist at the end,” states a press release for the app. A Cherokee Nation citizen, Wilson has been working for the past year and a half with Mountain Machine to develop the playable sci-fi story app. “I grew up in Tulsa and attended the University of Tulsa to study computer science. No surprise then that ‘Mayday!’ is part audio book and part video game – a story that you can play,” Wilson said. “It employs speech recognition very intentionally to put the player into an intimate, emotional experience with the survivor character. Basically, ‘Mayday!’ combines everything I love about reading and gaming into one package.” Harnessing the latest Apple hardware to employ seamless speech recognition, players can use more than 10 voice commands to guide a survivor to safety through five levels of increasing mayhem and uncover the terrible secret behind what happened to the crew of the USS Appaloosa. Osric Chau (“Supernatural,” “2012,” “Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn”) voices the main character, joined by Bitsie Tulloch and Claire Coffee, stars of the NBC television show “Grimm.” Wilson is committed to using the latest technology to find new ways to tell stories. “By using spoken commands, I hoped to forge an intimate, emotional experience,” he said. “My goal for ‘Mayday!’ was simple: create a story that you can play. Please grab a copy and let me know what you think, and as early adopters, it’s always important to leave reviews right away if you enjoy the game. Thank you for your support. It’s because of you that I keep scheming.” Wilson has formed his own entertainment company called “Iron Cloud Entertainment.” He is also a New York Times bestselling author behind books such as “Robopocalypse,” “How to Survive a Robot Uprising,” and “Amped.” Wilson, of Portland, has built a diverse writing career since earning a doctorate degree in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University in 2005. In 2008, he hosted “The Works” on the History Channel, a 10-episode series exploring the inner workings of everyday stuff. In collaboration with DC Comics, he is writing a weekly series called “Earth 2: World’s End.” He is also penning a science fiction survival script for the movie company Lionsgate with Brad Pitt attached to produce. “Mayday! Deep Space” is available today for a price of $2.99 from the App Store on iPhone, iPad, and iPhone Touch or at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. For more, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a> or on Twitter: @maydayapps.
Senior Reporter
01/22/2015 08:53 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Heritage Center Executive Director Candessa Tehee has been chosen to take part in a May workshop that has the potential of improving the CHC’s museum. The five-day workshop in Bloomington, Indiana, called “Museum at the Crossroads” will meet May 14-21 at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures and will include eight “museum partners” from the United States and abroad. Tehee is one of eight partners who will take part in the “innovative international workshop on the future of museums of culture and history.” “They received a number of applications and they only selected eight. It wasn’t just applications from the U.S., and it was not limited to tribes either. Everyone had the chance to apply,” Tehee said. Before going to the workshop, Tehee is required to evaluate the CHC’s attractions and identify challenges it faces in terms of how it is presenting Cherokee stories and history to the public. She also had to write about why she thought she would make a good candidate and why the CHC would benefit from her participation. The challenges the CHC faces preserving its artifacts and presenting Cherokee culture will be discussed along with the other participants’ challenges during the five-day workshop. Tehee said the challenges discussed will have an international perspective because there will be multiple partners there, some from other countries. “We’ll discuss how those relate specifically to our own institutions, and we’ll work on ways to address those as a whole and individually,” she said. After the workshop, the participants will go home and work on implementing the ideas formed during the workshop. “The primary idea is that we bring everything that we worked on home and we implement it in our home organizations,” she said. One challenge Tehee will discuss is the infrastructure at the museum and how it affects the museum’s collections and archives. “We face that mainly because our facilities are as old as they are,” she said. The longhouse-shaped museum turned 40 years old in 2014 and was added to a complex in 1974 that included an amphitheater and an ancient Cherokee village. In 1985, the museum was remodeled to add more technology, but today needs more work especially in its basement where flooding occurs after heavy rains. The basement holds much of the museum’s collections and archives. There are also cultural concerns such as caring for medicine bundles in the collection, which Tehee said were entrusted to the CHC because the donors felt like the items would be safe in its care. “From a cultural perspective, we have to question whether or not we are the appropriate place to be holding them,” she said. Also, she added, museums are responsible for creating historical consciousness. The museum has to be aware of the Cherokee story it is presenting and the way it’s being presented. “At the Heritage Center...we’re presenting a slice of Cherokee life that’s rooted in history, which is something that is necessary and needs to be done. On the other hand, Cherokee people are a diverse, vibrant people, so it is a challenge to make we are presenting a full, diverse picture of what it means to be Cherokee and not being locked in to one notion of what that means,” she said. “Those are some of the things I touched on when I submitted my application, and then of course all of things come together in interesting ways.” Tehee said another benefit from attending the workshop is she will have contact with the other seven participants and their experiences and ideas, which could be used to improve the CHC. “I know the issues that we face are not necessarily unique to us. There are people who face similar issues, and there are people who have had success in trying to address these issues.”
Senior Reporter
01/17/2015 08:00 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Echota Ceremonial Ground operates with the assistance of the Cherokee Nation and with the assistance of its members and other ceremonial grounds in the area. The ceremonial ground is on CN land near the Cherokee Heritage Center. It moved to Park Hill in 2001 from Adair County. “It (land) was provided by the (Tribal) Council for the relocation of our fire. We were losing the property where we were at, but before we did we started looking for a new home, and the Council offered several pieces of property and we chose that one for our use,” Echota Ceremonial Ground leader David Comingdeer said. “Since then we’ve had a healthy land-use agreement with the Tribal Council and our chiefs.” The Echota Ceremonial Ground’s history is older than the state’s, Comingdeer said. It began near the Peavine Community in Adair County and later moved to Coon Mountain, also in Adair County. There the ground struggled as its leadership aged or became ill until the ground was turned over to Comingdeer, who was serving as second chief, in 2002. “It’s a struggle to keep the ground going, but it’s very rewarding at the same time,” he said. A benefit stomp dance will be held for the Echota Ceremonial Ground from 7 p.m. to midnight on Feb. 7 at the Tahlequah Community Building located at 908 S. College Ave. Members from all ceremonial grounds are welcome for fellowship and fundraising for improvements to the ground. The emcee will be Opv Mack. Raffles, cake walks, an auction and drawings for grocery baskets will be a part of the fundraiser. Also, a concession stand will be available for guests. Comingdeer said some maintenance needs to be done to the ceremonial ground and he wants to update the restrooms available to members and guests. “There are so many people who come out there. We have primitive restrooms, and we just want to improve things a little bit for our visitors and make it more comfortable when they come,” he said. Comingdeer said he’s proud that the Echota Ceremonial Ground is still a member of the “Four Mothers’ Society.” He said it is the only Cherokee ground that is still a member of the more than 100-year-old society. The society began because Cherokee ceremonial people, along with Muscogee (Creek) ceremonial people, opposed the allotment of the tribal lands during the Dawes Commission allotment period in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The people feared it would open up “surplus lands” to white settlement, which did occur. He said several Muscogee (Creek) ceremonial grounds are still part of the “Four Mothers’ Society.” At the ceremonial grounds stomp dances, stickball games, meetings and ceremonies are held. “My ancestors from that ground (Echota) and the other core families from that ground, allied with the Creeks,” he said. “To this day, when they have meetings in the Creek Nation, I get invited to meet with the Creek ceremonial chiefs to discuss different issues. The Creeks still acknowledge us as part of the alliance.” Comingdeer said he expects to receive support at the benefit stomp dance from Muscogee (Creek) ceremonial grounds and local Cherokee groups. He said members of the Echota Ceremonial Ground also support the Muscogee (Creek) grounds with their fundraisers and events. “We are a Cherokee community, and we embody the Cherokee ceremonial culture. We work hard to perpetuate, nor preserve, our ceremonial values and ceremonial ways the way they were passed down to us,” he said. “That’s what makes us a tribe. It’s not enterprises or businesses or whatnot. You can take all that away as long as we still have our ceremonial ground and our language and our ceremonial beliefs, we’re still a tribe. That’s what gives us our federal it’s important that we uphold that.” Members of the Echota Ceremonial Ground have five dance meetings during the spring and summer with the first dance in April. For more information about the benefit stomp dance, call Comingdeer at 918-822-2302.
01/16/2015 12:00 PM
BENTONVILLE, Ark. – Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis announced on Jan. 6 that she’s launching a film festival to champion women and diversity in film to be held in Bentonville. The Bentonville Film Festival will be held May 5-9 and is sponsored by her own organization, the “Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media,” as well as corporate partners Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, AMC Theaters, and ARC Entertainment. “I’m honored to collaborate with ARC Entertainment, Wal-Mart, AMC and Coca-Cola to launch this important initiative,” Davis said. “I have been so impressed with the commitment Wal-Mart has made to support Women through their Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative, which has as one of its goals to source $20 billion from women-owned businesses in the U.S.” The festival will begin accepting submissions on Jan. 15 and will focus on films that prominently feature women and minorities in cast and crew. The selected films will be announced in March. According to Variety magazine, the festival will be unique for being “the only film competition in the world to offer guaranteed theatrical, TV, digital and retail home entertainment distribution for its winners.” Davis also said that judges would be looking for films with high commercial potential. The festival’s advisory board will include Angela Bassett, Bruce Dern, Samuel L. Jackson, Randy Jackson, Eva Longoria, Julianne Moore, Paula Patton, Natalie Portman, Nina Tassler and Shailene Woodley. Davis is best known for her roles in 1980s and 1990s classics such as “A League of Their Own”, “Fletch,” “Beetlejuice” and “Thelma and Louise.” Film submissions to the festival must meet two of seven requirements: female or minority lead, female or minority director, female or minority writer, female or minority production company, gender and diversity balanced cast, gender and diversity balanced crew, and family or shared viewing appropriate. For more information on the festival, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a> or email <a href="mailto:"></a>.
Senior Reporter
01/15/2015 08:15 AM
LINE SWITCH, Okla. – A river cane field located on Cherokee Nation land in southern Adair County got some needed help using fire. On land adjacent to Sallisaw Creek, Roger Cain, researcher for the Cherokee Nation River Cane Initiative, joined Cherokee Nation Wildlife Fire Coordinator David Comingdeer and his son Spencer for a “controlled burn” under the native river cane growing next to the creek. The river cane project began in 2011 to preserve, map and perpetuate the growth of river cane in the CN. “So far we’ve identified 60 acres of river cane on tribal land out of about 18,000 acres. We’re here today on this plot that has been partially poisoned, and we’re trying to correct the problem by burning off the old cane, and hopefully we’ll connect two separate cane breaks together,” Cain said. “Burning cane breaks hasn’t been done since before statehood. Before statehood we were able to burn and do all sorts of stuff as a this is pretty unique. We’re doing something other tribes wish they could do, and we’re glad we can do it and protect our tribal resources.” Cain said the burn is done in the winter to remove the river cane’s competition. River cane grows in the winter, and if its competition is eliminated it will get a head start in the spring and grow taller and larger. When the cane reaches a certain height it will develop a canopy and won’t have to compete as much with other plants around it because it will block out the sun, he said. Comingdeer said he and his son attempted a “controlled burn” on Jan. 9, while the conditions were good with good humidity and little wind. However, the “fuel” or leaves needed to keep the fire going were compacted due to recent rainfall. “A lot of our native species and our plants that are in this area that we use for our artwork, our basketry, our materials that we harvest for certain things like our medicine...are fire dependent. If you don’t have fire occasionally in those areas, than those native species simply die off. Other invasive species will come in and choke them out,” Comingdeer said. “The fire didn’t carry well through most of the cane itself, but if it doesn’t burn, it doesn’t need fire right now, so we’ll come back when the conditions for fire are a little bit better.” Comingdeer said the plants growing in the area near Sallisaw Creek are similar to plants that grew in the Cherokee’s eastern homelands, so that’s why many Cherokee gravitated to the area after the forced removal. Another problem for the river cane on this piece of tribal land is cattle are continuously eating the cane and preventing it from growing taller. Cain said the cattle are after the protein in the cane, which is a grass and is 30 to 40 percent protein. On the other side of the fence where the cattle are not able to graze, the river cane is much taller. Cain said tribal leaders have pledged to fence in the river cane to prevent the cattle from eating it. A third problem for the river cane is poisoning. Some of the cane near the creek was killed by poison possibly used by the rancher leasing the land to kill milk thistle and other weeds in the pasture next to the cane field. Milk thistle can cause nitrate poisoning in cattle and push out beneficial plants. “The resulting run off from the poison washed down the field and bisected a canebrake as it washed into the creek,” Cain said. River cane can be used to make blowguns, and milk thistle bulbs are used to help make blowgun darts. Also, when ranchers mow over larger cane stalks they create spikes that are dangerous to animals and people, Cain added. People cutting cane and leaving spikes is one of Cain’s major complaints and safety concerns in canebrakes. River cane was the Cherokees’ plastic, Cain said. It was used for shelter, weapons, mats, chairs, food and supplied material for baskets. Unfortunately not much of the river cane found on the 60 acres of tribal land is fit for “traditional art” such as baskets, Cain said, because it has not been taken care of and is attempting to grow under the canopy of trees. River cane once grew 40 feet tall in the area, but now cane growing only 20 feet tall can be found. “What we are finding is that river cane is best when a man is working with it and helping maintain it,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do here is help its visibility to the sun increase as well as trying something we’ve never done as a tribe in using our traditional fire knowledge to improve the environment.”
01/14/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A new children’s book titled “Woodchuck Visits Algonquian Cousins” by Cherokee author Karen Coody Cooper was inspired by Algonquian language and other American Indian languages. “When I moved from Oklahoma to Massachusetts, and then to Connecticut, I was immediately entranced by the meanings of those state’s names and of the variety of unusual words used in New England for streams, mountains, beaches, and towns,” Cooper said. “Soon I recognized that Naugatuck, Saugatuck and Mattatuck shared sounds and so did Quassapaug, Orenaug and Shepaug. I began to understand parts of the Algonquian words, and I wanted to share the rich indigenous American language with others.” Cooper, who now lives in Tahlequah, said the book’s “richly saturated illustrations” were created by Cherokee artist Hillary Glass and capture a “whimsical” side of the bespectacled Woodchuck whose adventures the story follows as she visits various Algonquian cousins: skunk, opossum, moose, muskellunge, chipmunk and raccoon. A map in the center of the book notes the many tribes speaking Algonquian languages and also cites places names like Wyoming, Mississippi, Michigan, Hatteras, Quebec and Potomac. Although American Indian languages are accurately considered endangered, Cooper said, many languages, including Cherokee (which is Iroquoian-based) and several Algonquian languages continue in use. Words from the languages of various early indigenous groups survive as place names, and some continue as the common names of animals and plants unique to early life in the hemisphere. The word woodchuck derives from Algonquian otchig, but was heard and recorded as “woodchuck” by English speakers. As a fictional character, burrowing Woodchuck is able to appear wherever she chooses. Utilizing Woodchuck as the book’s primary character, the author introduces readers to various sites where Algonquian words are prevalent. The story is written for 6- to 10-years-olds, but the Algonquian-based words encourage initial adult involvement. Published by the Oklahoma-based soddenbank press, the full-color, illustrated book is priced at $10. The second book in the Woodchuck series will be published in 2016 and will explore both Cherokee and Algonquian words while exploring wampum. Cooper is the author of the popular textbook “Spirited Encounters: American Indians Protest Museum Policies and Practices” and “Cherokee Wampum War and Peace Belts 1730 to Present.” Illustrator Glass is an up-and-coming young Cherokee artist who has won several awards for her anime-style work at various art shows in Eastern Oklahoma. Schools, clubs or libraries that would like to meet the artist and/or author, may call 918-207-0093 or email <a href="mailto:"></a>. The book may be purchased at the Cherokee Art Center’s Spider Gallery, 215 S. Muskogee Avenue, Tahlequah and at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.