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 STAFF REPORTS
03/24/2017 04:00 PM
VENORE, Tenn. – Various cultural classes will take place in April at the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum. Cornhusk doll making taught by Tonya Dockery will begin at 10 a.m. on April 1. The fee is $15, and class size is limited to 15 to 18 people. Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian enrolled citizens Mary Brown and Gil Jackson will teach a Cherokee language class from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on April 3. The cost is $50 for four consecutive classes to be held on Monday evenings. Sharon Ensminger will teach a finger weaving class from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 22 by. Cost is $25. Participants are asked to bring a small box and two skeins of heavy weight yarn of different colors (one light, one dark) and a bag lunch. Class size is limited to 15 people. EBCI citizen Mary Thompson will teach a Cherokee basket weaving class from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 29. The cost of the class is $20 plus the cost of materials. Students should call for list of needed materials to bring to class. Participants are asked to bring a bag lunch. Class size limited to 12 people. Call the museum at 423-884-6246 for more information or stop by to register. Drinks are available for purchase at the museum. The Sequoyah Birthplace Museum is located at 576 Highway 360. People may visit <a href="http://www.sequoyahmusuem.org" target="_blank">www.sequoyahmusuem.org</a> for more upcoming events or call the museum.
BY STAFF REPORTS
03/15/2017 12:45 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Discover your family history and Cherokee ancestry at the Cherokee Heritage Center’s 16th annual Cherokee Ancestry Conference June 9-10 at the Tribal Complex. The event provides participants with the tools to research their ancestry with Cherokee historical records and features a variety of discussion topics, including historical events before and after the removal, inter-tribal relationships and advancements in social media and its effect on genealogy research. Participants will also learn about various CN records available online as well as resources available in their local area for Cherokee ancestry research. A discount is given to those who register before June 3. Pre-registration is $60 for Cherokee National Historical Society members and $75 for nonmembers. The deadline is June 3. Registrations after June 3 are $70 for CNHS members and $85 for nonmembers. The Cherokee Ancestry Conference will be held in the Osiyo Room at the Tribal Complex. It is located at 17725 S. Muskogee Ave. in the same building as Restaurant of the Cherokees. For more information, including accommodations and registration, call 918-456-6007, ext. 6162, or email <a href="mailto: ashley-vann@cherokee.org">ashley-vann@cherokee.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
03/09/2017 12:15 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Visitors to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., have the opportunity to learn about the history and culture of the Cherokees from March 31 to April 2.   For the fourth consecutive year, the Cherokee Nation, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians are partnering to host Cherokee Days at the museum, which is free to attend. “We have established an excellent partnership with the National Museum of the American Indian that annually celebrates the shared history and heritage of the Cherokee people,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “This event is a unique showcase and educational opportunity focused on our tribal lifeways. Our artisans, culture keepers and historians from the federally recognized governments of the Cherokee are able to come together as family and share our rich story that is so prominent in America’s history.”  Cherokee Days shares the history of the Cherokees through a timeline exhibit, live cultural art demonstrations and cultural performances. Among the art demonstrations are pottery making, basket weaving, carving and textiles. “You will learn the tribal stories of the Cherokee Nation, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee. Our history is interwoven in the stories of survival, enrichment and the golden years,” UKB Principal Chief Joe Bunch said. “Cherokee Days at the Smithsonian promises to be a highly informative and enlightening learning experience. We have a wonderful opportunity to share our unique story and our culture with thousands of visitors in Washington, D.C.” As part of the event, there will be a make-and-take experience that provides children an opportunity to create traditionally inspired Cherokee items. “Cherokee Days is a unique opportunity for visitors and guests to experience the rich culture and history of the Cherokee people," Eastern Band Principal Chief Patrick Lambert said “At a time where there is increasing demand to learn more about the First Americans, working together the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the Cherokee Nation and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee weave an incredible experience in the heart of the nation's capital. We look to not only showcase our historical Cherokee values, we want to show how we have evolved and retained our culture in a modern world.” The Cherokee Phoenix will also have a booth at the museum with subscription forms during the three-day event. Those unable to attend can watch by visiting <a href="http:www.CherokeeDays.com" target="_blank">http:www.CherokeeDays.com</a>.  The site provides a detailed agenda of daily activities and performances, access to information and photos from each tribe’s social media accounts and live streaming throughout the event.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
03/07/2017 09:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee National Treasure Vivian Cottrell has shared her knowledge of basket making at the Cherokee Arts Center for the past two months. Specifically, she taught “the old Cherokee traditional basket style of double weave” using river cane. “It’s our old traditional Cherokee style of weaving, and I am trying to teach it to others,” she said. “I’ve been weaving for approximately 45 years, since I was 13. My mother taught me, and she was also a (Cherokee) National Treasure. Her name was Betty Scraper Garner.” Cottrell, of Flint Ridge, said for the past four or five years she has been studying river cane – how to split it, peel it and dye it – as her Cherokee ancestors did in the old Cherokee Nation in eastern Tennessee, northern Georgia and western North Carolina. There the cane was abundant along the region’s many rivers. Her home is near the Illinois River, which allows her to walk to the river to gather cane and other basket-making materials. “And over that time I’ve also been weaving it, and once I felt comfortable...then I was able to pass that on. It was very important for me...to pass that knowledge on to others,” she said. Cottrell said she learned from her mother the importance to pass on her knowledge, so she recently took advantage of a CN program that recruits Cherokee National Treasures to teach classes to share their artistic skills. Cottrell said Cherokee people used double-weave baskets for storing and carrying items and are known for creating double-weave or double-wall baskets. The double-weave style is “labor intensive,” she said. A double-weave basket is two baskets with one inside the other, woven together at the rim. The weaver begins at the base of the inside basket and works upward to the rim. At the rim, the cane is bent downward, and the outside is woven from the top to the base, which makes the basket sturdier. Candice Byrd said she had “foundational knowledge” on how to make a double-weave basket having studied with Cherokee National Treasures Bessie Russell and Shawna Morton Cain. Byrd said she makes round-reed baskets where buck brush, honeysuckle reed or commercial reed is used, however, she said she wanted to study under Cottrell because she admires her basket-making work. “I’ve seen it at art shows, I’ve seen it at Cherokee Art Market, and I wanted to learn from her how she did her technique on how to do the double woven because in involves a lot of counting and it’s very specific,” she said. “It’s very hard to do, and it’s not something we see as often in these parts, as often as we seen it with the Eastern Band of Cherokees. I think it’s important that we have basket weavers who know different types of techniques.” Cottrell said she did not expect her students to weave an entire basket in one day, but as they gained experience they began to weave faster. Some of her students made three or four baskets in two months. Sally Briggs said she was glad to be invited to learn with Cottrell. She also knew how to weave baskets using various types of reeds, but learning how to make a Cherokee double-weave basket was something she has wanted to learn for years, she said. “I’ve never accomplished this basket until now,” she said. “I think, the (Cherokee) National Treasures and the Cherokee Nation, it was something they wanted to do to encourage more people to learn this basket and to make it.” She said she once tried to learn how to make a river cane, double-weave basket by reading a book but wasn’t successful. “It took Vivian teaching it to me because there are several intricate points in it, and it is a more difficult basket than what I was used to doing. So, it has been a fabulous opportunity to learn something that is one the Cherokee’s oldest style of baskets,” Briggs said.
BY STAFF REPORTS
03/06/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Northeastern State University Center for Tribal Studies has set the 45th annual Symposium on the American Indian for April 10-15 in the University Center at NSU’s Tahlequah campus. This years theme is “Indian Givers: Indigenous Inspirations,” and the event will include the return of the NSU Powwow. According to the symposium’s website, the symposium “will focus on the many ways in which American Indians have contributed to mainstream, western culture through art, literature, government and other areas of the humanities.” The symposium’s film series will kick off the week with two screenings. “Violet” will be shown at 6 p.m. on April 10 and “Medicine Woman” will be shown at 6 p.m. on April 11, both in the W. Roger Webb Educational Technology Center’s auditorium. The opening ceremony is set for 9:30 a.m. on April 12 where the Native American Student Association will welcome guests with comments from Center for Tribal Studies Director Sara Barnett and NASA President and Cherokee Nation citizen Jacob Chavez. The ceremony will also include a presentation of colors from the CN Color Guard, the Miss Native American NSU Crowning Ceremony and a special presentation from the Wewoka High School students and first year students of Maskoke Seminole Language class. Several keynote speakers will be at the symposium including CN citizen Dr. Jeff Corntassel, associate professor and graduate advisor in the School of Indigenous Governance at the University of Victoria; Jacklyn Roessel, Navajo, founder of Grown Up Navajo and former education and public programs director at the Heard Museum; and more. The symposium will end with the NSU Powwow on April 15. The day will begin at 2 p.m. with a Gourd Dance, dinner at 5 p.m. and the Grand Entry/Intertribal powwow from 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.nsuok.edu/symposium" target="_blank">www.nsuok.edu/symposium</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
03/06/2017 09:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Speakers Bureau will be held Thursday March 9, 2017 from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. 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 at (918) 453-5151; John Ross at (918) 453-6170; or Roy Boney Jr. (918) 453-5487. Tsalagi aniwonisgi unadatlugv dodvnatlosi Nvgineiga Anvyi 9, 2017, ganvsulvi 12:30 p.m. adalenisgi 4 p.m. igohida. Na anitsalagi tsunalisdayetiyi tsigotlv unaditli wayvsdi onadilvyvi utani kanvsula dodvnatlosi. Nanivanitsalagi aniwonisgi otsitayohiha uniluhisdii. Alisdayvdi ayohisdi yodulia. Dodayotsadatlisani aledodayotsalisdayvna hilutsvi. Ugodesdi tsadulihesdi tsadelayohisdi hiina wigehiyadvdi: Tsalagi Gawonihisdi Unadotlvsv (918) 453-5151; John Ross (918) 453-6170; or Roy Boney Jr. (918) 453-5487.