Cherokee tribes gather for language consortium

BY KENLEA HENSON
Former Reporter
03/26/2018 10:15 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee speakers from the Cherokee Nation, Eastern Band of he Cherokee Indian and United Keetoowah Band translate the word “physics” into the Cherokee language during a Cherokee Language Consortium on March 21 in Tahlequah. KENLEA HENSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
A booklet compiled of modern English words translated into the Cherokee language. The booklet consists of 10 years worth of words totaling more than 2,500 Cherokee words. KENLEA HENSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee speakers from the Cherokee Nation, Eastern Band of he Cherokee Indian and United Keetoowah Band translate the word “physics” into the Cherokee language during a Cherokee Language Consortium on March 21 in Tahlequah. KENLEA HENSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – First-language Cherokee speakers from the Cherokee Nation, Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian and the United Keetoowah Band held their quarterly Cherokee Language Consortium March 21-23 in Tahlequah.

The group alternates between Tahlequah and Cherokee, North Carolina, home of the EBCI.
The three tribes have worked for the past 10 years to develop words and curriculum in the Cherokee language. So far the group has developed more than 2,500 words.

CN Language Program Manager Roy Boney Jr. said when there is a need for a word that doesn’t have a Cherokee translation the word will go to the consortium and be discussed. He said once a word is translated it’s placed in a terminology booklet.

“A lot of the words are really modern, the kind of things that never existed before, so they have to be discussed. Since the group consists of Cherokee elders from all the Cherokee federally recognized tribes it’s kind of seen as the official versions of these words,” Boney said. “When they approve it, it kind of has that seal of approval, and people can trust what it means.”

Boney said the Cherokee language is descriptive and verb-based, so when translating an English word into a Cherokee word the group will sometimes describe what the word is. However, occasionally the group has to refer to historical documents such as historical writings, legal documents, letters and church records written by Cherokee people.

He also said the speakers are made up of experts on different topics. He said some are historians or legal experts, while some are knowable about cultural elements such as medicine and traditional ways.

“Something we value about this is that a lot of times in the white world people kind of put faith in formal education, which is fine, but these people with our culture and language they are the experts and everything. Even though some of them never went to college they are still really, really intelligent people,” he said.

During the consortium, the group worked on the translations of a new word list that included art and science terminology. The group also expected to review Cherokee language programs such as the Master Apprentice Program and 14th Generation, as well as travel to historical sites Dwight Mission and Sequoyah’s Home in Sequoyah County, where speakers were to view Cherokee language documents.

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