OPINION: All-Cherokee language section more than novelty
In case you haven’t seen it, we recently published an eight-page, all-Cherokee section within the September issue of the Cherokee Phoenix. It was the brainchild of Assistant Editor Travis Snell, and he came up with the idea in earlier this year. It took months to put together. It wouldn’t have been possible without the cooperation of the Cherokee Nation’s Cherokee Language Program and its translators – Roy Boney, Lawrence Panther, Dennis Sixkiller, Anna Sixkiller, John Ross, David Crawler and Zachary Barnes. They not only translated stories written in English into the Cherokee syllabary, they also read the translations and recorded them so they could be heard. It was printed and mailed out to our subscribers and available at our booths during the Cherokee National Holiday.
During the holiday, it received nothing but positive comments from those who took time to pick it up and look at it. During my time covering our booth inside the W. W. Keeler Tribal Complex, I saw many just walk by, pick it up and take it. However, one lady stopped and asked me many questions about it. Several I knew the answer to, but one question I couldn’t answer stuck out in my mind.
“How many people can actually read this?”
All I could say was “out of the more than 300,000 Cherokee Nation citizens, not very many.”
She agreed with that general answer, said it was neat and was glad to see it printed. We spoke for a few more minutes and she was on her way.
That conversation and particular question has been on my mind since. Although I don’t know the exact number of CN citizens who can read the syllabary, nor do I think anyone knows for sure, it is low.
This raises another question, “Then why spend the money, time, effort and human resources to print it?”
The answer is simple. Because it’s our responsibility to make the language visible to our readers and available to all regardless of how many people can read it.
With the help of today’s technology, the Cherokee language is more accessible than ever. There are online classes available and Cherokee syllabary keyboards on computers and smartphones just to name a few.
Our printed all-Cherokee issue is another example of how technology allows us to add to the resurgence of our language. In the issue, we included a QR code within each story that can be scanned with a smartphone that links to audio recordings read in Cherokee by a translator.
Although we’ve published many stories translated in the Cherokee language that included QR codes since I started working here, we’ve not published an entire eight-page section. And to my knowledge, this is the first time this has been done in the modern Cherokee Phoenix era. This is a significant historical accomplishment and should not be seen as a novelty but as another step in the right direction to help grow the number of Cherokee speakers. It took the work of many people to put it together, and I’m glad I was a part of it.
The PDF version of the all-Cherokee section is available at https://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Documents/2018/8/62541_2018AllCherokeeIssue.pdf
and each individual story has also been published on our website.