Cherokee translations growing 1 word at a time

BY CHAD HUNTER
Reporter
09/10/2019 08:30 AM
Audio Clip
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Hartwell Francis, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Kituwah Preservation and Education Program education curriculum developer, helps create a Cherokee word with fluent speakers on March 27 at a language consortium in Cherokee, North Carolina. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Eastern band of Cherokee Indians citizen Myrtle Driver, center, and other fluent speakers take part in a language consortium on March 27 in Cherokee, North Carolina. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
During the years, Cherokee language experts have translated thousands of English words such as these shown. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
The Rev. James “Bo” Parris leads a hymn in Cherokee on March 28 during a language event in Cherokee, North Carolina. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
CHEROKEE, N.C. – Cherokee language custodians from the Cherokee Nation, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and United Keetoowah Band are preserving and broadening their vocabularies one word at a time.

“You’ve got to keep coming up with new words,” EBCI citizen Lou Jackson said.

Language experts from the three tribes gather four times annually to compose words for objects or concepts historically unknown to Cherokees.

During a Cherokee Speakers Consortium held March 27-30, dozens of experts spent time wrestling with music-related terms and other words and phrases such as vitamin, skateboard, trick or treat, artificial intelligence and Bigfoot. They also translated into Cherokee from English various salamanders, which are an abundant and diverse inhabitant of the local terrain, biologist Caleb Hickman said.

“I think because I described them, it was easier to come up with the names,” he said. “But words take a long time. People argue about it. There are different dialects. Slight changes in one sound can change the meaning.”

Since forming in 2007, consortium members have agreed upon 4,000-plus new Cherokee words. Hartwell Francis, EBCI Kituwah Preservation and Education Program education curriculum developer, said the goal is to “keep people in the Cherokee language.”

“Part of language preservation and continued health is the kind of work we did with the salamanders, where maybe the words for all those animals have been lost, forgotten or need to be reinvigorated in some way,” Francis said. “So the speakers will come together here and discuss those things they know about in the environment and name them so the children in the school systems around here and in Oklahoma can study those things in nature.”

Sometimes, Francis said, “It will be more technical stuff, like how to say ‘drone’ in Cherokee, for example.”

“We could of course just borrow it,” he said. “But a lot of times it just makes more sense to say it in the Cherokee language.”

As far as salamanders go, Jackson said she “was amazed at how many we had locally.”

“If you’re not paying attention, you’d think there was just one lizard,” she said jokingly.

Francis said there are “little sound differences” for first-language speakers of the eastern and western tribes.

“Sometimes there are some word differences because it’s almost 200 years of separation of the two groups now,” he said. “It was important to get the word for angry or mad from the group today because the word is different in the Oklahoma speaking groups than it is from the eastern groups. This group brings those speakers together in a more formal fashion than has happened a lot of times over the 170 or 180 years the groups have been apart.”

One of the original consortium members, EBCI citizen Myrtle Driver, 75, said Cherokee speakers first united “because we were losing our language.”

“That’s why we called it a revitalization initiative,” she said.

New words are ultimately agreed upon by a show of hands.

“It’s a safe space where everybody votes, and we want everything to be unanimous,” Francis said. “But if you don’t vote, you can always say, ‘I didn’t vote for that.’ So it’s kind of this combination of individuality and consensus.”
ᏣᎳᎩ

ᏣᎳᎩ, N. C. – ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎤᎦᏎᏍᏗᏕᎦ ᏂᏓᏳᏂᎩᏓ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ, ᏣᎳᎩᏱ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏂᎩᏚᏩᎩ ᎠᏂᏴᏫᏯ ᎾᎿ ᎠᎾᎵᏏᏅᏗᎭ ᎠᎴ ᎤᎪᏓ ᏂᏓᏅᏁ ᏗᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ ᏌᏊᎭᎢ ᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ.

“ᎠᏎᏃ ᏗᏩᏛᏗ ᏂᎪᎯᎸ ᏗᏤ ᏗᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ,” EBCI ᎨᎳᏗᏙ ᎠᏗᏍᎬ Lou Jackson ᏧᏙᎢᏓ.

ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᏏᎾᏍᏗ ᏂᏓᏳᏂᎩᏓ ᏦᎢ ᎠᏂᎳᏍᏓᏢ ᎠᎾᏓᏟᏏᏍᎪ ᏅᎩ ᎢᏳᏩᎪᏗ ᏑᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᎨᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏓᏃᏪᎵᏍᎪ ᏗᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎾᏁᎵᏍᎬ ᏄᎵᏍᏔᏅ ᏄᎾᏅᏛᎾ ᏱᎩ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ.

ᎤᏂᏍᏆᎸᎡᎸ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎩ Consortium ᎠᏅᏱ 27—30, ᎤᏂᎪᏓ ᎤᏂᎦᏙᎲᏒ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᏁᏙᎲ ᏓᎾᏁᎶᏗᏍᎬ ᏗᎧᏃᎩᏍᏗ ᎠᏂᏃᎮᏍᎬ ᎢᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏐᎢ ᏗᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏐᎢ ᏯᏛᎾ vitamin, skateboard, trick or treat, artificial intelligence ᎠᎴ Bigfoot. ᏃᎴᏍᏊ ᏚᎾᏁᎶᏔᏅ ᏲᏁᎦ ᏕᎪᏪᎸ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏂᏚᏅᏁᎸᎢ ᏯᏛᎾ ᏧᎾᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᎠᏁᎲ (Salmanders), ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏂᎪᏓ ᎠᏁᎭ ᎠᎴ ᏄᎾᏓᎴ ᎠᏁᎲ ᎾᎿ ᎾᎥᎢ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬ Biologist Caleb Hickman.

“ᎨᎵᎠ ᏅᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎠᎩᏃᎮᏢ ᏄᎾᏍᏛᎢ, ᎠᎯᏗᎨ ᎨᏒ ᎾᎿ ᏗᎪᏍᏗᎢ,”ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. “ᎠᏎᏃ ᏗᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ ᎪᎯᏗ ᏓᏟᎢᎵᏙᎲᎢ. ᏧᏓᎴᎾᎢ ᏚᏃᏴᎬ ᏗᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ. ᏌᏊ ᎤᏃᏴᎬ ᏄᏓᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏱᎦᏁᏟᏴᎾ ᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ ᎦᏛᎬᎢ.”

ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎦᏲᎦᏓᏢᏅ ᎾᎿ 2007, Consortium ᎠᏁᎳ ᏚᏂᎾᏄᎪᏫᏌ ᏅᎩ ᏯᎦᏴᎵ ᎢᏤ ᏗᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏳᎪᏓ.

Hartwell Francis, EBCI ᎠᏂᎩᏚᏩᎩ ᎠᎾᎵᏏᏅᏔᏅᏍᎩ ᎠᎴ ᏗᎾᏕᏲᎲᏍᎦ ᏚᎾᏙᏢᏒ ᏧᎾᏕᏲᏙᏗ ᎪᏪᎵ ᏗᏃᏢᏍᎩ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎤᎾᏎᎸ ᎾᏍᎩ “ᏗᎵᏏᏅᏙᏗ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᏣᎳᎩᏊ ᎢᎦ ᎤᏂᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗᎢ.”

ᎢᎦᏓ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᎵᏏᏅᏙᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏂᎦᏯᎢᏐ ᏙᎯᎢ ᎨᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᏙᎩᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎸ ᏙᏣᏁᎶᏗᏍᎬ ᎠᎹᏯ ᎠᏁᎯ (salmanders), ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏙᎯᏳ ᏗᎩᏲᎱᏎᎸᏊ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎯᎠ ᏚᎾᏙᎥᎢ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᎢᎩᏂᎬᎦ ᎾᎿ ᏙᏙᏍᏗᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏅᏃᏓ ᎢᏳᎵᏍᏙᏗᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ Francis. “ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᏧᎾᏠᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏂᏃᎮᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎤᎾᏅᏛ ᎠᏁᎲ ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᎢᏳᎾᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏧᏃᏍᏗᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏗᏂᏲᏟ ᏗᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎩ ᎠᎴ ᎣᎦᎵᎰᎹ ᎾᎿ ᏧᎾᎦᏎᏍᏙᏗ ᎯᎢᎾ ᏄᏍᏗᏓᏅᎢ.”

ᎢᏴᏓᎭ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬ Francis, ᎡᎵ ᎤᎪᏙ ᎠᏓᏅᏖᏗ ᎨᏐᎢ ᏯᏛᎾ ᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ ‘drone’ ᏝᏃ ᎪᎯᎦ ᏱᎩ ᎤᎾᏄᎪᏨᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ.”

“ᎡᎵᏪᎥ ᏯᎾᏓᏙᎵᏍᏗ ᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. “ᎤᎪᏛᏃ ᎢᏳᏩᎪᏓ ᎠᎯᏗᎨ ᎨᏐ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ.”

ᎾᏍᎩᏃ Salamanders ᎨᏒᎢ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬ Jackson “ᎠᏍᏆᏂᎪᏍᎬ ᎤᏂᎪᏓ ᎠᏁᎲ ᎾᎥᎢ.”

ᎢᏳᏃ ᎾᎦᏎᏍᏛᎾ ᏱᎩ, ᎮᎵᏍᎬ ᏌᏊᏊ ᏘᏲᎭᎵ ᏲᎳ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎠᏎᏃ ᎤᏬᎸᏗ ᎤᏰᎸᏒᎢ.

Francis ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎾᏍᎩ “ᎤᏍᏗ ᎤᏃᏴᎬ ᏚᏓᎴᎾᎢ” ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᎬᏱ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᎾᎿ ᎧᎸᎬ ᎠᏁᎯ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏕᎵᎬᎢ ᎠᏂᎳᏍᏓᏢᎢ.

“ᎢᏴᏓᎭᏃ ᎢᎦᏓ ᏗᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ ᏚᏓᎴᎾᎣᎢ ᏅᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗᎭ ᎾᎠᏂᎨᏍᏗ ᏔᎵᏧᏈ ᎾᏕᏘᏯ ᎬᏩᎾᏗᎦᎴᏲᏨ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏔᎵ ᏄᎾᏓᏡᎬᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. “ᎤᏍᏆᏂᎪᏛ ᎨᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ ᎤᎾᎸᎯ ᏂᏓᏳᏓᎴᏅ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎦ ᎪᎯᎢᎦ ᎾᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎯᎠ ᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ ᏚᏓᎴᎾᎢ ᎾᎿ ᎣᎦᎵᎰᎹ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᏚᎾᏓᏡᎬᎢ. ᎯᎠ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎦ ᏓᎾᏘᏃᎯᎰ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᎠᎾᏓᏟᏏᏍᎪ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏄᎵᏍᏔᎾ ᎢᎸᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᏩᎪᏗ ᎾᎿ 170 ᎠᎴ 180 ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᎾᎿ ᎪᎯᎳ ᎯᎠ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎦ ᏗᎬᏩᎾᎦᎴᏅᏓ.”

ᏌᏊ ᎾᎿ ᏧᎾᎴᏅᎲ ᏓᎾᏠᏍᎬ ᏂᎨᎳᏗᏙᎰᎢ ᎨᎳ, EBCI ᎨᎳ Myrtle Driver, 75 ᎢᏳᏕᏘᏴᏓ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᎢᎬᏱ ᎤᎾᏙᏢᎾ “ᏅᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎢᎩᏲᎱᏎ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ.”

“ᎾᏍᎩ ᏂᏕᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᏥᏃᏥᏪᏎᎰᎢ ᎥᎪᏢᎯᏐᏗᎢ ᎥᎦᎴᏅᏗᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.
ᏗᏤ ᏗᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ ᎣᏏ ᎠᏂᏰᎸᏍᎬ ᏓᎾᏐᎸᏛᏍᎪ ᎬᏂᎨᏒ ᎾᏅᏁᎲ ᎣᏏ ᎠᏂᏱᎸᏍᎬᎢ.

“ᎾᏍᎩ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎡᏓᏍᏗᎢ ᎾᎿ ᏂᎦᏓ ᎠᏂᏁᎪᎢ, ᎠᎴ ᎣᎦᏚᎵ ᏂᎦᏓ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ Francis.

“ᎠᏎᏃ ᎢᏳ ᏂᏣᏁᏨᎾ ᏱᎩ, ᎡᎵᏊ ᎯᎠ ᎢᎦᏣᏪᏍᏗ, ‘Ꮭ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏱᏥᏍᏕᎸᎮᎢ.’ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎦᏟᏌᏅ ᎾᎿ ᏃᏊᎭᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎨᏒᎢ.”

– TRANSLATED BY ANNA SIXKILLER

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