Cherokee language immersion school teacher retires
Reba Rodgers, holding one of her retirement gifts, addresses students and well wishers during her June 24 retirement party. Language project supervisor Rebecca Drywater, left, also congratulated Rodgers. PHOTO BY WILL CHAVEZ
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Reba Rodgers speaks the Cherokee language fluently, and for the past four years she’s shared that knowledge with the next generation of Cherokee speakers.Rodgers retired June 25 from her job as a first grade teacher at the tribe’s Cherokee Language Immersion Program. But her recent retirement is actually her second time retiring as a teacher.“She taught 24 years in the first grade at Marble City. Then she decided, ‘I want to go into retirement,’” said Rebecca Drywater, language project supervisor.The 65-year-old Rodgers was retired from Marble City Schools in Sequoyah County for nearly three years before applying at the immersion school, after much coaxing by her sister-in-law and son.“My sister-in-law was already working here,” Rodgers said. “They needed a first grade teacher and they started asking everybody if they knew anybody who wanted to teach. She mentioned me and that I was retired. But I said, ‘no, I don’t think I want to.’”After several discussions with her son, Cherokee Phoenix Senior Reporter Will Chavez, Rodgers came out of retirement to teach her native language. So for the past three years and 11 months, she has driven 45 minutes to Tahlequah from Marble City five days a week to teach Cherokee.“It was just amazing to hear those kids talk Cherokee when I was sitting in the classroom,” she said. “I thought, ‘what am I going to do? They already know how to talk.’ But I really enjoyed it. I just wish I could do more.”Rodgers graduated from Northeastern State University in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in education. In 2008, she expanded her education by becoming a certified teacher in Cherokee literacy. The language comes easy for her because she grew up speaking Cherokee and learned English as a second language.“I had to learn English when I started school,” she said. “That’s what I tell these kids, but they don’t believe me.”Now retired again, Rodgers is looking forward to activities she hasn’t had time for such as quilt making.“My sisters and I were talking, and I think we’re going to start making quilts whenever we can,” she said. “Momma used to do it, and we used to help her. We decided to pick it back up and see what we could do.”Rodgers also said she wants to baby sit her 9-month-old grandson and travel. “Will said we might travel a little bit,” she said. “We like to travel.”As for the job she’s leaving, she said she feels the immersion program and other CN language initiatives are moving in a positive direction.“I think they can (revitalize the language) if the people would really want to learn,” she said. “They have to have their minds set on it. It’ll take a lot of work for them to learn. But I think it’s good that they’re trying.”Though she’d like to do more, she said she knows it’s time to take a break.“I just feel like it’s time,” Rodgers said. “I’m wore out and tired all the time. I think it’s (immersion program) a great thing. The kids are so easy to teach. They just pick it up so quickly. Just to hear them talk, it’s really good to hear them talk.”
ᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏗᏕᏲᎲᏍᎩ ᏙᎢ ᏂᏛᏛᏁᎵ ᏓᏕᏲᎲᏍᎬᎢ
ᏓᎵᏆ, ᎣᎸᎵᎰᎻ.---- ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎨᎳ Reba Rodgers ᎦᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎧᎵᎢ, ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏅᎩ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᎤᎶᏒᏍᏗ ᏕᎨᏲᎲᎦ ᏄᏍᏛ ᎠᎦᏔᎾᎥ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎣᏂ ᏥᏚᎾᏛᏏᏗ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎩ.
Rodgers ᏙᎢ ᏄᏛᏁᎸ ᏕᎭᎷᏱ ᎯᏍᎩᏦᏁᏏᏁ ᎾᎿ ᎯᎠ ᏚᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎲᎠᎬᏱ ᏗᏂᏂᏙᎯ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏣᎳᎩᎭ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᏧᏂᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗᎢ. ᎠᏎᏍᎩᏂ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎯᎠ ᏙᎢ ᏥᏄᏛᏁᎸ ᎾᏝᎬ ᏔᎵᏁ ᎨᏒᎢ ᎾᎿ ᏓᏕᏲᎲᏍᎬᎢ.
“ᏚᏕᏲᏅ ᏔᎵᏍᎪ ᏅᎩ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᎾᎿ ᎢᎬᏱ ᏗᏂᏂᏙᎯ ᏗᎦᏓᏲᏍᏛ. ᎠᎴ ᎤᏓᎾᏖᎴ, ᎠᏆᏚᎵ ᏙᎢ ᏯᏆᏛᏗᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬ Rebecca Drywater, ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎤᎾᏙᏢᎯ ᏧᎦᏎᏍᏗᏕᎦ.
ᎾᏍᎩ ᏑᏓᎵᏍᎪ ᎯᏍᎩ ᏳᏕᏘᏴᏓ Rodgers ᏙᎢ ᏄᏛᏁᎸ ᎾᎿ ᏗᎦᏓᏲᏍᏗᎢ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎾᎿ ᏏᏉᏲ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᏦᎢ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᏙᎢ ᎢᎬᏩᏛᏁᎸ ᎨᏎ ᎩᎳ ᎤᏢᏁ ᎪᏪᎵ ᏧᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ ᎠᏔᏲᎯᎯ ᏧᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ ᏣᎳᎩᎭ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᏃᏊᎴ ᎬᏩᏍᏗᏰᏗᏍᎬ ᎤᏦᎯᏴ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏪᏣ ᎠᏍᎦᏯ.
“ᎠᏆᏦᎯᏴ ᎦᏳᎳ ᏚᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎲ ᎾᎿ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬ Rodgers. “ᎤᏂᏂᎬᎬ ᎢᎬᏱ ᏗᏂᏂᏙᎯ ᏗᏕᏲᎲᏍᎩ ᎠᎴ ᎤᎾᎴᏅᎲᏓᏅᏛᏛᎲᏍᎬ ᎩᎶ ᏳᎾᏅᏔ ᏗᎬᏩᏕᏲᏗ ᏱᎩ. ᎾᎾᏃ ᎤᏓᏃᎯᏎᎴ ᎠᏯ ᎠᎴ ᏙᎢ ᏯᏆᏛᏁᎸᎢ ᎨᏒᎢ, ‘Ꮭ, ᏱᎨᎵ ᏯᏆᏚᎵᎭ.”
ᎢᎸᏍᎩ ᏳᏂᏃᎮᏢ ᎤᏪᏥ ᎠᏍᎦᏯ, ᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎴᎯᏌᏅ ᎪᏪᎵ ᏧᏃᏪᎶᏗ ᏧᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎯ ᎠᎴ ᏩᏍᎪᎵᏴ ᏗᎪᏪᎵᏍᎩ ᎬᏂᎨᏒ ᎢᎬᏁᎯ ᏚᏙᎥ Will Chavez, Rodgers ᏂᏓᏳᏅᎪᏨ ᏙᎢ ᏄᏛᏅ ᏚᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎲ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏧᏕᏲᏗ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏦᎢ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᎠᎴ ᏌᏚ ᎢᏳᎾᏙᏓᏆᏍᏗ, ᎠᏂᎩᏍᎬ ᏅᎩᏍᎪᎯᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᏔᏬᏍᏔᏅ ᎢᎪᎯᏓ ᏓᎵᏆ ᎡᎬ ᏗᎦᏓᏲᏍᏗ ᏂᏓᏳᏂᎩᏓ ᎯᏍᎩ ᏧᏙᏓᏆᏗ ᏓᏕᏲᎲᏍᎬ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ.
“ᎢᎦᏃ ᏥᏍᏆᏂᎪᏍᎪ ᏗᏂᏲᏟ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᎾᎿ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎧᏅᏑᎸ ᏂᎦᏓ ᎣᏥᏅᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. “ᎦᏓᏅᏖᏍᎬ, ‘ᎦᏙ ᏓᎦᏛᏁᎵ ᎨᎵᏍᎬᎢ? ᎦᏳᎳ ᎠᏂᎦᏔᎭ ᎤᏂᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗᎢ’. ᎠᏎᏃ ᎢᎦ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎠᎩᏰᎸᏒ ᏓᎩᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎲ. ᎠᏆᏚᎵᏍᎬ ᎤᎪᏛ ᏯᏆᏛᏗᎢ.”
Rodgers ᏚᏍᏆᏛ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏴᏢᎧᎸᎬ ᎢᏗᏢ ᏩᎦᎸᎳᏗᏴ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎾᎿ ᏐᏁᎳᏚ ᎢᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᎦᎵᏆᏍᎪ ᏐᏁᎳ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ bachelor’s degree ᏗᎬᏩᏕᏲᏗ ᎨᏒᎢ. ᎾᏃ ᏔᎵ ᏯᎦᏴᎵ ᏧᏁᎳ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒ, ᎤᎪᏔᏅ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏓᏕᏲᎲᏍᎬ ᎤᏁᏒ ᎤᎵᏍᎪᎸᏓᏁᎯ ᏧᏕᏲᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎨᏒᎢ. ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᎯᏓ ᏄᎵᏍᏓᏁᎲ ᎾᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎾᏍᎩᏊ ᎢᎦ ᎦᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᎨᏒ ᎤᏛᏏᏗᏒ ᎠᎴ ᎠᎩᎵᏏ ᎣᏂ ᎤᏕᎶᏆᎥᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏔᎵᏁ ᎤᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ.
“ᎠᎩᎵᏏ ᎠᏆᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎠᏆᎴᏅᎭ ᏕᎦᏕᎶᏆᏍᎬᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. “ᎾᏍᎩ ᏂᎦᏥᏪᏎᎰ ᎯᎠ ᏗᏂᏲᏟ, ᎠᏎᏃ Ꮭ ᏱᎬᏉᎯᏳᎲᏍᎪ.”
ᏃᏊᏃ ᏙᎢ ᏥᏅᎦᏛᎦ, Rodgers ᎠᎦᏖᏃᎯ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᏛᏗ ᏃᏊ ᎯᎠ ᏧᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ ᏂᎨᏒᎾ ᏥᎩ ᎠᎴ Ꮭ ᏳᏠᏅᏓᏕᎮ ᎪᎯᏗ ᏓᎦᎶ ᏃᏊᏃ ᎡᎵᏊ ᏱᎦᏟ ᏙᏓᎪᏢᏂ.
“ᏦᏍᏓᏓᎸ ᎣᏍᏗᏬᏂᏍᎬ , ᎠᎴ ᎨᎵᏍᎬ ᏓᏲᏍᏓᎴᏅ ᏰᎦᏟ ᏙᏍᏙᏢᏍᎬᎢ ᎣᎩᎾᏝᏅᏓᏕᎲᎢ,” ᎤᏛᏅᎢ. “ᎡᏥ ᏥᎨᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏯᏛᏁ ᎨᏒ, ᎠᎴ ᏦᏥᏍᏕᎵᏍᎬ.”
ᏙᎩᏄᎪᏔᏅ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏠᏯ ᏲᎩᎾᏛᏗᎢ. Rodgers ᎤᏛᏅ ᎾᏍᏊ ᎤᏚᎵᏍᎬ ᎤᎵᏏ ᎠᏧᏣ ᏐᏁᎳ ᎢᏯᏅᏓ ᎨᏱᎭ ᎤᎦᏘᏗᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏫᏙᎵᏓᏍᏗ.
“Will ᎤᏛᏅ ᎡᎵᏊ ᎦᏲᏟ ᏲᏤᏙᎵᏣ Ꮭ ᎤᎪᏗ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. “ ᎣᎩᎸᏉᏗ ᎣᎨᏙᎵᏓᏍᏗᎢ.”
ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎯᎠ ᏧᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ ᏣᎯᏯᎢ, ᎤᏛᏅ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩᎭ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏐᎢ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎠᎴ ᏚᏳᎪᏛ ᏚᏮᎪᏗᏓ.
“ᎡᎵᏊ ᏱᎾᎾᏛᎦ ᎨᎵᎠ (ᏧᎾᎴᎯᏐᏙᏗ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ) ᎢᏳᏃ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᏙᎯᏳ ᏳᎾᏚᎵ ᎤᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ,” ᎤᏛᏅᎢ.
ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎤᎾᏓᏅᏖᏗ ᏂᎪᎯᎸ. ᎤᎪᏗ ᏗᎦᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗᎢ. ᎠᏎᏃ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎨᎵᏍᎪ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᎾᏁᎸᏗᏍᎬᎢ.”
ᏳᎪᏓ ᏯᏆᏚᎵ ᏯᏆᏛᏗ, ᎤᏛᏅ ᎠᏎᏃ ᎤᏅᏔ ᎠᏍᏆᎵᏍᎬ ᏙᎢ ᎢᏳᏛᏗᎢ.
“ᎠᏆᏓᏅᏛ ᎠᏆᏅᏔ ᎠᏍᏆᎵᏍᎬᎢ,” ᎤᏛᏅ Rodgers. “ᏂᎪᎯᎸ ᏓᎩᏯᏪᎦ ᏕᎦᏍᏔᏰᏍᎪ. ᎨᎵᏍᎬ Ꮎ ᏣᎳᎩᎭ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎢᎦ ᎣᏍᏓ. ᏗᏂᏲᏟ ᎢᎦ ᎠᎯᏓ ᏗᎨᏲᏗ. ᎩᎳᏊ ᎢᏴ ᎠᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎪ. ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎬ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎨᏐ ᎠᏛᎪᏗᎢ.”