Chief Hoskin announces $16M Cherokee language initiative

10/01/2019 11:30 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. on Sept. 27 announces a $16 million investment in Cherokee language preservation – the largest language investment in tribal history. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. on Sept. 27 announced a $16 million investment in Cherokee language preservation – the largest language investment in Cherokee Nation history.

Hoskin announced the “Durbin Feeling Cherokee Language Preservation Act” during a celebration of Cherokee language speakers.

“Now is the time to be bold and act quickly so we do not fail the legacy of our ancestors or future of our Cherokee speakers,” Hoskin said. “We have focused on health care and economic development, and we have seen immeasurable achievements, but now we must also focus on saving our Cherokee language as another high priority.”

The Durbin Feeling Cherokee Language Preservation Act will:

• Create a secretary of Language, Culture and Community Cabinet-level position under the CN administration;

• Transfer Cherokee Nation Businesses’ former Cherokee Casino Tahlequah building valued at $3.8 million to the CN for a language center;

• Invest an additional $5 million from CNB dividends to renovate and expand the language center;

• Officially name the language center the “Durbin Feeling Language Center” after modern-day Sequoyah and first-language Speaker Durbin Feeling;

• Invest another $1.5 million annually for five years from CNB dividends for language program operations, with an option to reauthorize for additional years; and

• The Durbin Feeling Language Center will house the Cherokee Immersion Charter School, Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program and the tribe’s team of Cherokee translators.

“The Cherokee language, I believe, is the soul of the Cherokee people. It is the source of our pride and our strength as a tribe,” Deputy Chief Bryan Warner said. “That’s why revitalizing the Cherokee language has become a priority of the utmost importance. The investments we are making in our language programs are meant not only to preserve the Cherokee language today, but to encourage us as Cherokee people to embrace our language and to use it for many generations into the future. Today is a great day in the Cherokee Nation and a new chapter in the preservation of our Cherokee language.”

The CN has identified about 2,000 first-language Cherokee speakers.

The tribe invests more than $6 million per year into its language department, Cherokee Immersion Charter School, Master-Apprentice Program and Cherokee Voices, Cherokee Sounds Radio Show.

“I can say without a doubt that Durbin Feeling laid the groundwork for this generation’s preservation of the Cherokee language,” Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd said. “I believe because of his efforts and the work of so many of our first-language Cherokee speakers, including those here in the Cherokee Nation and our brothers and sisters from the United Keetoowah Band and the Eastern Band of Cherokees, that we’re going to save our Cherokee language. The Council of the Cherokee Nation has always been a supporter of every effort to preserve the Cherokee language, and we all look forward to seeing our language carried on to the next generation.”

According to a CN press release, Feeling is the Cherokee linguist who wrote the Cherokee dictionary and is the single largest contributor to the Cherokee language since Sequoyah. He has worked at the CN since 1976.

Some of his accomplishments include adding the Cherokee syllabary on a word processor in the 1980s. He also started the process to add the Cherokee language on Unicode, which today allows smartphones to offer the syllabary, and he developed hundreds of Cherokee language teaching materials used today.

The Tribal Council passed the Durbin Feeling Cherokee Language Preservation Act in committee on Sept. 26 and is expected to pass the act at its October meeting.


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