Voice actors for ‘Inage’i’ share their experiences working on animation
“Inage’i” or “In The Woods” will premiere at 8 p.m. on Sept. 4 at One Fire Field adjacent to the Tribal Complex. Cherokee Nation citizens Harry Oosahwee, Betty Frogg, Lauren Hummingbird and United Keetoowah Band citizen Schon Duncan were cast as voice actors. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – Before the Cherokee language animation production “Inage’i” or “In The Woods” publicly debuts on Sept 4, some of its voice actors shared their thoughts about working on it.
The series follows the adventures of four animal friends living together in the forests of Turtle Island. Iga Daya’i the mischievous rabbit, Juksvsgi the gruff wolf, Anawegi the conscientious deer and Kvliwohi the wise bear are characters drawn from the Cherokee storytelling tradition.
Film company FireThief, in collaboration with the Cherokee Nation’s Cherokee Language Masters Apprentice Program, assembled an all-Oklahoma team to create the pilot episode. Creative Filter brought Cherokee artist Roy Boney Jr.’s artwork to life while composer Kawnar collaborated with Cherokee musicians, the Cherokee Youth Choir and vocalist Cora Flute, who wrote and performed the lyrics to the theme song. CN citizens Harry Oosahwee, Betty Frogg, Lauren Hummingbird and United Keetoowah Band citizen Schon Duncan were cast as voice actors. The CN Cherokee Translation team provided translations.
Oosahwee, 70, said CLMAP staff contacted him to see if he was interested in the project.
“We looked at the initial cartoon just as a very brief overview, and then they gave us the character we were going to voice over,” he said. “And then they gave us the script, and we went from there. Then they got us all together in the studio and we started recording. I enjoyed the experience. There needs to be more of that type of work done with the language where the kids can get involved.”
Oosahwee has been involved with Cherokee language programs starting with Bacone College in 1968. He then worked with the CN Cultural Resources Center and taught the language at Northeastern State University for 12 years. He plays Juksvsgi the wolf.
“Kids can identify with the names. They don’t have to just say yona (bear) or waya (wolf). The characters actually have names. It is neat,” he said.
Duncan, 31, who voices Kvliwohi the bear, said he didn’t set out to be in the production.
“When they had auditions down at the (Tribal) Complex, one of my friends was supposed to audition. When he got down there he got scared, and so basically I was showing him how to audition,” he said. “I wasn’t planning on auditioning, but when I got there he wouldn’t do it, and so I auditioned, and they chose me.”
Duncan said Kvliwohi is a medicine keeper. “He has these little roots that do different things for him, and he helps the other characters with guidance to keep them on the right track.”
He said he appreciates the fact the animation’s producers gave the animal characters names rather than just naming them by their species.
“I mean some people are named after animals, so it wouldn’t make sense for animals to be named after themselves. It’s good for them have a name of their own,” the CLMAP graduate said.
In August, Duncan started working as the Cherokee language officer at Dahlonegah Public Schools and said “Inage’i” will be a good classroom asset. “I’m trying to insert as much Cherokee into the school as I can, and so I see this cartoon as an opportunity to get kids involved and get them excited. They will have something in the language that is theirs. I hope that it inspires kids to learn their own language.”
Frogg, a Cherokee Immersion School second grade teacher, voiced Iga Daya’i the rabbit. She said the rabbit, bear and wolf appear in other Cherokee stories, but she hopes the characters in “Inage’i” will be “superheroes” to her students and Cherokee children.
“I have always wanted something for our Cherokee people, especially the kids because they all watch cartoons,” she said. “It was fun. We had a blast doing it. We laughed, helped each other out. We had two second-language learners on that cast. Harry Oosahwee and I were the fluent speakers, so we worked together. It was just wonderful to work with these people.”
She said she auditioned after co-creator Jeremy Charles encouraged her.
“I think the cartoon in it is going to be good for second-language learners and our kids, who are second-language learners. I’m hoping everybody gets hooked on this cartoon,” Frogg said. “I had tears in my eyes when I found out what they were doing. I can’t put into words how exciting and how amazing this is for our young people and even our adults.”
The CN funded the animation through its Durbin Feeling Language Preservation Act, which is to preserve and revitalize the Cherokee language. The production was created via a partnership among the CN, the Oklahoma Film + Music Office and FireThief Productions.
Charles said he is hoping “Inage’i” inspires more Cherokees to pursue storytelling as a career, whether it be in journalism, filmmaking, animation or writing. “In order for the language to thrive, we have to create lots of media in the language,” he said.
The animation will premiere at 8 p.m. on Sept. 4 at One Fire Field west of the Tribal Complex. The event is free, and people can visit Eventbrite at Click here