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
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
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.”

will-chavez@cherokee.org


918-207-3961

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. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 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. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.

Culture

BY LINDSEY BARK
Staff Writer
01/11/2017 08:15 AM
LOCUST GROVE, Okla. – Since he was 8 years old, Cherokee Nation citizen Dave Standingwater has had an interest in archery and been fascinated by the flight of the arrow. Growing up in the Snake Creek Community near Locust Grove, Standingwater learned about hunting from his grandmother, Maggie Whitekiller Standingwater. His first hunting experience was at age 13, killing a deer with a bow and arrow his uncle made. “I was hooked after that,” he said. He said when times were hard and his father was unemployed, he helped out by hunting and providing for his family. “It was rough times back then,” he said. Years later, he became a nationally ranked archer in the Cabela’s Archery Shooters Association, competing across the United States and in national championship tournaments. In 1991, he experienced his first archery outing when his son invited him to a 3-D archery range in Locust Grove. Though he hunted growing up, shooting 3-D targets proved a challenge. “My first outing was terrible. I was so bad, and so I asked them if they (archery range) was open every weekend. So I went back. I started shooting and practicing,” Standingwater said. He said he practiced at home for 20 minutes to 30 minutes a day, eventually entering local archery tournaments. “I got to taking first, second and third place trophies and stuff like that,” he said. In 1994, he joined the Cabela’s Archery Shooters Association tour and his first tournament was in Oklahoma City. He began competing in out-of-state tournaments and racked up points to qualify for the championship tournament in Tennessee. “At that particular tournament, there were like 2,500 actual shooters, and I shot the traditional way – stick and string,” he said. He used a custom-made modern dual-purpose Black Widow bow. He said competing nationally enhanced his archery skills against many high-level shooters. “If you missed, your arrow was just gone. But in competition like that you didn’t miss, you just didn’t miss, he said.” He competed until 2001. He never won a championship tournament but often placed second and third. One of the biggest highlights of his career was when a Cabela’s magazine recognized him as one of the top 10 traditional bow shooters in the nation during the 1999 tour. “I started looking down that list there and my name was No. 7. I wore that magazine out showing people,” Standingwater said. “I just wanted to shoot. I never thought that I’d become in the top 10 bracket.” Now at 74, Standingwater continues his passion for shooting, bow making and learning how to flint knap. He made his first bow out of bois d’arc, learned how to cut a stave (a trimmed rod of wood used to make a bow) and make bowstring from squirrel hide. He studies to become a more “powerful” and “faster” bow shooter and said he is staying with the traditional way of shooting so that he has the knowledge to survive and provide for his family if he needs to. “I’m a full traditional shooter. I don’t aim down the arrow. I don’t look at the string. I look at the place where I want to hit. That’s where I want the arrow to go and that’s what I’m looking at. So that’s as traditional as you can get. I think that’s a plus when you get out in the woods. A lot of times your shots are going to be quick,” he said. He said he’s passing his archery knowledge to his family and compared his great-niece’s shooting to that of Robin Hood. He said the two often take nature walks and practice shooting rabbits and squirrels. Standingwater said he’s retained what he learned from his grandmother, who was a midwife and knew how to gather plants for medicines. Through her, he also learned to fish and gather foods that are in season. “I learned a lot from my grandmother, (she) taught me a lot.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/10/2017 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Speakers Bureau will be held Thursday January 12, 2017 from 12:30 - 4pm. We will meet in the Community Ballroom that is located behind the Restaurant of the Cherokee. All Cherokee speakers are invited to attend. If you want to bring a side dish or a dessert, feel free to bring it. Come speak Cherokee and enjoy food and fellowship. For further information about the event, please contact the Language Program Office: 918-453-5151, 918-453-6170, 918-453-5487.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/10/2017 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Congratulations to Cherokee Nation citizen Dana Parks from Brownsboro, Texas, for being the Cherokee Phoenix’s fourth-quarter giveaway winner. On Jan. 3, Parks won beaded jewelry made by Native Uniques owner Samantha Barnes. The winning package consisted of a bracelet, necklace, dream catcher and earrings. Parks won it after Cherokee Phoenix staff members drew her name from approximately 170 entries. Parks joins Nan Butler, of Wellston, Wauneta Wine of Columbia, Maryland, and Dale Easky of St. Clair, Missouri, as the 2016 Cherokee Phoenix quarterly giveaway winners. Butler won four painted tiles by Cherokee artist MaryBeth Timothy of MoonHawk Art for the third-quarter contest. Wine won a carving by Cherokee sculptor Matthew Girty for the second quarter, and Easky won a knife by Cherokee knife maker Ray Kirk for the first quarter. Entries can be obtained by donating to the Cherokee Phoenix’s Elder Fund or buying a Cherokee Phoenix subscription or merchandise. One entry is given for every $10 spent or donated. The Cherokee Phoenix will hold its first quarterly drawing for 2017 on April 3 when it gives away a finger-woven belt made by Jules Brison of Waterspider Creations. For more information regarding the giveaways, call Samantha Cochran at 918-207-3825 or Justin Smith at 918-207-4975 or email samantha-cochran@cherokee.org or justin-smith@cherokee.org. For more information on Waterspider Creations, visit <a href="http://www.etsy.com/shop/WaterspidercreaGifts" target="_blank">www.etsy.com/shop/WaterspidercreaGifts</a> or <a href="https://www.facebook.com/waterspidercreations/" target="_blank">https://www.facebook.com/waterspidercreations/</a>. For more information on Native Uniques, go to Nativeuniques.com or call 918-214-0030.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/04/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – In January, two traditional basket-weaving classes will be offered at the United Keetoowah Band’s John Hair Cultural Center and Museum. Each class will have a two-day session with the first class taking place on Jan. 5-6 and the second on Jan. 19-20. All classes are from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. During the first class students will learn how to weave around a glass flower vase, and during the second class students will focus on weaving a basket and fitting it with a woven lid. Cindy Hair, a Keetoowah Tradition Keeper and master basket weaver, will teach the classes. She has approximately 50 years of weaving experience, and her basketry is known around the country. “I just love weaving baskets and love teaching basket weaving,” she said. “I want to keep it up and pass it on as long as I can.” The classes cost $25 each with reed being provided. Students are encouraged to bring their own vase, but vases will be available for purchase for $2. For more information or to register, call 918-772-4389.
BY LINDSEY BARK
Staff Writer
01/04/2017 08:15 AM
BRIGGS, Okla. – For the past 65 years, United Keetoowah Band citizen and Cherokee National Treasure Dorothy Lee Ice has been loom weaving, an art form used to make items such as belts, scarves, headbands, bookmarks, bracelets and shawls. Ice, of Briggs, became an employee of the Sequoyah Indian Weavers in the 1940s when she was 15 years old. She became interested in weaving after watching weaver Lucille Hair. After a time, her curiosity brought her back to watch the loom weavers. Bill Ames, a man from New York who ran the SIW, approached Ice and asked if she would like to learn. She did not hesitate and was employed that day. Her first woven piece was a blanket. “I just loved it when I first started. What got me interested, mostly, was (I) just got in there and started. I didn’t have to ask any questions,” Ice said. She said loom weaving consists of using a wooden loom, stringing or threading a warp and using shuttles on the loom to create a design. Ice said she only uses four designs when weaving. “I use plain weave, hit and miss, herring bone and diamond. That’s all I do,” she said. Ice said SIW employees were paid by “piece work.” Once an item was completed John Ketcher, of the Sequoyah Vocational School and former Tribal Councilor, inspected it. He was able to spot a flaw instantly, and if it was not good, the weaver had to re-create the piece. Once items passed inspected, they were shipped to New York to be sold. She said at the time, along with the Briggs weaving hall, there were weaving halls ran by Ames in Bull Hollow, Peavine and Jay. Ice worked for the Briggs SIW until 1960 and again in 1964 until it was shut down because of robberies and a lack of weaving material. She continued to loom weave on her own and only created made-to-order items. She said loom weaving remains the same as the art form has not evolved much from the time she started. She became a Cherokee National Treasure in 1991 for her knowledge of loom weaving and said that meant she “better be learning more and teaching more.” Ice, 81, now teaches classes at the Cherokee Arts Center in Tahlequah. The classes are commissioned through the Cherokee Nation. “(Out of) the Cherokees, I think I am the only one that is weaving. I would like to pass it on, and all I want to hear from them (students) is ‘I learned this from so and so, and I taught so and so.’ That’s all I want to hear from them. I just want to pass it on. I don’t want it to die,” Ice said. “If they want to learn and I know it, and I am able to teach them, I would like to teach them. I think it would be important for them to learn all of the traditions so that they can survive if hard times come.” Aside from loom weaving, Ice teaches reading and writing of the Cherokee language, her first language, and teaches others how to make shackles for stomp dances. As a UKB citizen, she also received that tribe’s Tradition Keeper Award for loom weaving in 2014. She also worked for Briggs Schools for many years as a teacher’s assistant and bus driver. In her spare time, she likes to clog dance at the senior citizens center in Tahlequah.
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/28/2016 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizens Richard and Sheila Fields will host a grand opening of their new 4 Winds, 7 Clans Gallery at noon, Jan. 7 in Tahlequah. A ribbon cutting will take place at 2 p.m., Jan. 5 at the gallery hosted by the Tahlequah Chamber of Commerce. “4 Winds, 7 Clans Gallery showcases fine art by Cherokee National Treasures in addition to creations by up and coming Cherokee artists and craftsmen,” said Sheila. “All artists showcased in the gallery are of Cherokee descent, many are fluent in their Cherokee language, and each Cherokee artist brings their heritage to life through their individual talents and gifts which they pour into the design found in their art.” She added that the Cherokee elders among the Cherokee National Treasures inspired the gallery and that is why they are featured within it. “We are starting slow and we’re going to grow from there. We hope to add classes soon, a legacy for our artists,” said Richard. “If you are looking for authentic Cherokee art then you will find something to your liking in 4 Winds, 7 Clans Gallery.” The gallery is located at 210 S. Muskogee and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.