Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program graduates 6
Six students graduate from the Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program on Dec. 14. They were Schon Duncan, second from left and going right, Eric Marshall, Rachelle Johnson, Rebecca Nagle, Jeromy Miller and Jonathon Blackbear. CLMAP Director Howard Paden, far left, and CLMAP Curriculum Supervisor Ryan Mackey, far right, stand with the graduates. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Rachelle Johnson receives her diploma from Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin signifying her completion of the two-year Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program during a Dec. 14 graduation ceremony. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program mentor and speaker Jerry Ross places a copper gorget on graduate Jeromy Miller during a Dec. 14 graduation ceremony. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Jonathan Blackbear receives a copper gorget as Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin waits to present him his diploma during the Dec. 14 Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program graduation. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program graduates each were given a custom bandolier bag and copper gorget during a Dec. 14 graduation ceremony. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – Six students graduated the Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program on Dec. 14 as part of an effort to strengthen and save the Cherokee language.
This is the program’s fourth graduating class, which consists of Rachelle Johnson, of Welling; Jeromy Miller, of Tahlequah; Eric Marshall, of Rocky Mountain; Schon Duncan, of Stilwell; Jonathon Blackbear, of Locust Grove; and Rebecca Nagle, of Joplin, Missouri.
Students presented their final class projects at the graduation ceremony. Miller created a PowerPoint presentation of Cherokee words at the top of the page and the words in English and “most importantly” audio captures for the words spoken by Cherokee speakers.
“So, with this program you can put it on your home computer, you can put it on your phone, you can use it in classrooms, and every slide that is presented in the communities will be vetted through master speakers,” Miller said. “So you will have the audio, the grammar, the yoneg (English) and the tsa-la-g (Cherokee) in order to ensure that we’re sharing conversational, master speaker Cherokee language as we go forward. In the future I hope to collect every bit of Cherokee I hear and put it in this format as a teaching device.”
Graduates from the past two classes were also part of the graduation, as well as master Cherokee speakers who mentored the students the past two years. Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner also attended.
Hoskin reminded the audience his administration recently allocated $16 million toward language preservation, which includes expanding the CLMAP.
“So, in the years to come, we’re going to need a bigger stage for the graduates that come out for the master-apprentice program, and that’s a good thing because we need it,” Hoskin said. “We need two basic things to keep this language alive, and again, not only keep it alive, but also make it a vital part of Cherokee life. We need to supply speakers, and we need the demand for the language. Meeting the supply is a daunting challenge, but that $16 million dollars will help with that. It will quadruple this program, and it will expand other programs.”
Graduate Eric Marshall grew up with Cherokee speakers in Rocky Mountain. He said the reason he wanted to enroll in the program was because he had already taken Cherokee language classes in college and high school, but he had never been in a conversation setting like he was in the program with his mentors and teachers.
“So this was a way that I could bring everything I’ve learned together and kind of finish it. I still have a long way to go,” he said. “I want to keep learning.”
Graduate Rachelle Johnson, who began the two-year program in January 2018, said she’s always wanted to learn the language. “I’ve always had a want to learn, and this gave me a way to do it. It was hard but very rewarding. I will never say it was easy because there’s so much to take in, but once you got the hang of it, it got easier as you went along. I want to work with kids. I want to teach our children our language, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Hoskin said Johnson and other graduates are helping save the Cherokee language.
“This is an important event, not only for the men and women who will graduate, but for the people on whom they will make a great impact during the rest of their time here with us,” he said. “They are going to be part of a group of people that, not only save the Cherokee language, but make it a vital part of Cherokee life because that’s what they must do.”
Hoskin reiterated that he took an oath to preserve the CN’s culture, heritage and language – an oath he said he takes seriously. “I’m proud of this program, and I remember with it was simply an idea, an idea that those of us in office heard about and got behind. It started under my predecessor, Chief Bill John Baker. It started, I think, a spark among our people, and it started a spark among those who have committed their lives to not only save the Cherokee language, but to make it a vital part of our lives.”
Graduate Schon Duncan said CN, United Keetoowah Band and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizens need to “hold up, honor and support” Cherokee speakers as the tribes move forward.
“They are sacred to us. As you go along about your day and you meet a speaker, say thank you for carrying our language,” Duncan said.