NSU students present Cherokee play at symposium
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Students of Northeastern State University’s Intermediate Cherokee II and Advanced Cherokee II classes normally present talks on a topic or theme at the school’s annual Symposium on the American Indian. But for this year’s symposium, held April 11-16, they presented a play in Cherokee.
“There was a number of students who indicated and said they would work and spend time putting on a play,” Wyman Kirk, NSU instructor of the Cherokee Language Degree Program, said. “So we identified the story. They did their characters line-by-line translation and then we met as a group. They had their lines reviewed by fluent Native speakers to adjust, correct and then we talked about, not just the script and what they had, but language ideas.”
The idea of a play was brought up at the beginning of the semester. The students decided on the Cherokee traditional story “ Jisdu Jujalesdi Anehldi” or “Rabbit and the Sticky Doll” and presented it as a puppet show at the symposium on April 14.
The story of the “Rabbit and the Sticky Doll” is a Cherokee tale about the animals finding themselves without water during a drought. They get together and build a well. All of the animals help except for rabbit, who sleeps while they work and claims he can gather water from dew drops.
The animals finish the well and find that someone had stolen water from the well. They suspect rabbit but have no proof. So they decide to build a doll out of tar in the shape of an animal so that when rabbit comes for water he will be surprised and want to fight it. He fights the doll and gets stuck to it, unable to run away. The animals find him stuck to the doll and discuss what to do with rabbit. Rabbit starts to beg not to be thrown in the thicket, which is what the animals do. As soon as they throw rabbit in the thicket, he turns and says “I live here” and runs off.
The cast consisted of Chris Holmes as Yona (Bear), Ben Kester as Kanuna (Bullfrog), Tommy Wildcat as Sogwili (Horse), Hayley Miller as Daksi (Turtle), Shrerry Gammon as Jisdu (Rabbit), Jaime Dry as Ditli (Skunk), Dianna Thompson as Jitaga (Chicken), Brandon O’Field as Doya (Beaver) and Ed Jumper as Kanohesgi (Narrator).
“They use it as a learning process so if they had used a word or form or something that was not, say, necessarily as accurate as what a speaker would have or if there was something that made it wrong, understanding why that was the form they had or what they used was not going to work in their line or the presentation,” Kirk said.
The students worked on translating and speaking their lines two weeks prior to presenting it. After they play, they introduced themselves, provided information about themselves and the characters they portrayed in the play, all while speaking Cherokee. firstname.lastname@example.org • (918) 453-5000, ext. 6139