Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program accepting applications
Principal Chief Bill John Baker, left, stands with Ronnie Duncan, Lisa O’Field, Larry Carney and Toney Owens at the Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program graduation ceremony on Dec. 2 at the Armory Municipal Center in Tahlequah. Along with receiving certificates of completion, each graduate received a copper gorget and Pendleton blanket. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program is accepting applications until Oct. 1. The two-year program is centered on a group language immersion experience and accepts a limited number of applications each year.
In a previous Cherokee Phoenix story, Howard Paden, CLMAP manager, said the program stemmed from a “need” for the language.
“This program gets people speaking our language again. You know, we’ve seen a need for it because a lot of the (Cherokee) Immersion (Charter) School parents seen a need to not only push their kids to learn the language but to learn themselves and start having Cherokee speaking households,” Paden said.
After completing the program, students will have 4,000 contact hours with the Cherokee language and spend more than 40 hours each week studying and speaking the language.
“Our program is about more than teaching someone the Cherokee language, it is about naturally absorbing our language and our way of life to the point that it changes the way we see the world and think. The real goal is to activate people that will spread the language wherever they go,” Paden said. “Our learners say it is a challenging program, but every day they push to give them more language. When they graduate, their passion for speaking the Cherokee language is only rivaled by their commitment to share our language.”
To ensure individuals are able to dedicate the needed time to the program, they each receive a $10-an-hour tax-free cash benefit, program officials said. They also said an 80 percent time requirement is mandatory.
“They learn a lot of Cherokee. From when they first walk into the classroom to probably two months they already learn about 5,000 words,” Paden said. “The first year is primarily learning as much as they can, and by the second year we expect them to start teaching. Of course they have a master speaker there that can assist them, but they begin to teach phrases to the next group that comes in. So every January we get a new group, so the people that are in their last year will begin teaching in January to the new group that we have coming in.”
On Dec. 2, the Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program graduated four students: Larry Carney, of Tulsa; Ronnie Duncan, of Bell; Lisa O’Field, of Hulbert; and Toney Owens, of Rocky Mountain.
In 2014, the tribe began the program as a part of its Community and Cultural Outreach department as a way to promote the Cherokee language. Since its inception, the Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program has grown into its own department and graduated six Cherokee speakers.
To apply for the program, one must be 18 years or older, be available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., live near Tahlequah or be willing to relocate and possess a strong desire to learn and cultivate the Cherokee language and culture through teaching.
For more information or to apply, call 918-207-4964.