Cherokee speakers honored at Marble City event
Carolyn Locust, left, signs the Cherokee Speaker Roll while her sister, Lucy Scoggins, waits her turn during a June 25 event to gather the signatures of first-language Cherokee speakers. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Some the 38 signatures gathered on June 25 at a Cherokee Speaker Roll event held at the Marble City Community Building. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Joe Pettit signs his name to the Cherokee Speaker Roll book during a June 25 event hosted by the Cherokee Nation. The event sought first-language Cherokee speakers. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The introduction page for the Cherokee Speaker Roll book includes a statement from Principal Chief Bill John Baker. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Medallions were given to first-language Cherokee speakers at a June 25 event in Marble City. The Cherokee Nation sought Cherokees whose first language was Cherokee. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
First-language Cherokee speaker Reba Rodgers, of Marble City, places a medallion on Norma Eli during a June 25 event hosted by the Cherokee Nation that honored Cherokee language speakers. The medallion signifies Eli is a first-language Cherokee speaker. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
First-language Cherokee speaker Anita Christie looks through the Cherokee Speaker Roll book at an event on June 25 in Marble City to honor Cherokee speakers. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
MARBLE CITY – The Cherokee Speaker Roll Project made a June 25 stop in Marble City to gather signatures in a roll book and present medallions to first-language Cherokee speakers.
The project will continue hosting gatherings in 13 area communities this summer to recognize first-language Cherokee speakers.
Master Apprentice Program Manager Howard Paden said he and his staff have been getting a good response from the speakers.
“They are coming out and signing the Cherokee Speaker Roll book. We built that book to last 500 to a thousand years. It’s made of archival paper and archival ink and sewed and glued a certain way to last that long,” he said. “We’re just recognizing speakers and telling them we appreciate them. A lot of them have went through a lot of things to keep this language and keep this way of life, and we’re thankful that they done that. So we’re giving them a medallion, and we’re feeding them and trying our best to make them feel special.”
So far, the Belfonte, Greasy, Kenwood and Marble City communities have been visited to gain signatures. Paden said other communities than the original 13 may be added later.
Anita Christie, 46, came to Marble City from nearby Flute Springs to sign the book.
“It’s an honor because we are probably the last of our generation that are original fluent speakers. We learned from our parents and grandparents. That was our first language at home,” she said. “It’s pretty good thing that they got going, but it would have been nice too if our parents and grandparents could have been included way back. But it’s really nice they are doing this for us today, and it’s good that they are keeping the language alive by teaching the younger generations.”
Calvin McCoy, 81, grew up in Marble City with his Cherokee-speaking parents. He drove from Tahlequah to sign the book, get his medallion and to see family and friends.
“I enjoyed it,” he said. “My mother talked Cherokee all of the time. My dad did too, but he could also speak English.”
He said when he and his siblings started school they didn’t have a “tough time” learning English, but they never lost the ability to speak their first language.
Lorene Johnson, 72, is from Bunch but grew up in Marble City. She said she wanted to attend the event in Marble City to see how many people showed up who speak Cherokee.
“Anymore there’s not that many. They can understand it, but they can’t speak it. I think they should learn how to speak, so they can help the older people,” she said.
She added that she appreciated seeing friends and family at the event and is pleased the CN is making an effort to honor Cherokee speakers with medallions.
Paden said the community effort should give tribal leaders a better idea of how many speakers are in each community and their ages. The effort will also tell where language resources are needed.
“We’re just going to see if we need to do more,” he said. “It (turnout) has been really good. I think they appreciate the fact that we’re not wanting anything from them, and we’re just wanting to thank them. They also appreciate the togetherness. Whichever three of the federally recognized (Cherokee) tribes they are from, there’s no distinction when it comes to our language.”
The three federally recognized tribes are the CN, United Keetoowah Band and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Cherokee Speaker Roll Project events begin at 4 p.m. with an early-bird roll signing. Dinner is at 6 p.m. July gatherings are July 2 at Bell School, July 16 in Rocky Mountain, July 18 in Dry Creek, July 23 in Jay, July 26 in Stilwell and July 30 at Kansas, Oklahoma.
The August gatherings are Aug. 2 at Locust Grove, Aug. 6 at Lost City and Aug. 9 at Tahlequah.