CHEROKEE TRANSLATORS: Cherokee Bible led Sixkiller down translator path
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Evenings listening to her parents tell Cherokee legends and stories from the Bible began Anna Sixkiller’s journey to becoming a Cherokee Nation translation specialist.
Sixkiller, 66, grew up in the Leach community in Delaware County and Cherokee was the only language she knew until school.
“That was the language in our home. My parents both spoke the language. I just learned by listening and hearing it every day,” she said. “As I was growing up I thought that was the only language people spoke, but I learned otherwise when I started school.”
After dinner, her family listened to her father tell Cherokee legend stories, the same stories now shared in books created by the CN translation department.
“The stories they told back then were the lessons to be learned when you were growing up. They meant for you to think about the stories being told and learn from it,” she said. “When it was Momma’s turn to tell stories, she read the Bible.”
As a girl, Sixkiller knew she would have to learn to read the Cherokee syllabary before she could read her mother’s Cherokee Bible. But it wasn’t until she was older with her own children when she became dedicated to reading the Cherokee Bible and learning to write the syllabary.
“I had studied it throughout the years, but then one day I picked up the Bible and read a verse and then from then on I read a whole chapter. What motivated me was seeing Mom reading stories from this book,” she said.
She began working for the CN Cultural Resource Center in 2000, working with the language. Previous to that she taught Cherokee in communities for 12 years. She said when she taught Cherokee, phonetics was used instead of the syllabary to help people learn.
Since 2000, Sixkiller said there’s been a shift, with the syllabary largely replacing phonetics when the language is taught. She said she hears the language being spoken more than it was 10 years ago.
“For me, I just learned the syllabary and for a long time it was very hard for me to use phonetics,” she said. “To me, if that (phonetics) is what’s going to teach a person to pronounce and talk the language then I think it’s good, but still yet the syllabary was invented by Sequoyah and that’s our language.”
She believes it is easier for a person who speaks the language to learn how to read and write it. However, being a translator requires more than knowing how to speak Cherokee.
“To be a translator you have to think in the language. You have to think in Cherokee,” she said.
She and the translation department are asked to help people and programs with translations.
Along with translating materials for the Cherokee Language Immersion School, she also translates for universities, libraries, the tribe’s Cultural Tourism and clinics and hospitals. She also translates inside and outside signage for CN buildings and casinos, including parking and stop signs.
Before the translation department hired more staff, Sixkiller translated stories from English to Cherokee for the Cherokee Phoenix. Sometimes, she said, she translated up to five stories for an issue within two or three days. Now, other translation specialists help her translate two to four articles a month for the tribal newspaper and website.
“It gets easier and easier, and now I can probably translate an article in two and a half hours, three at the most,” she said.
At times, when translating a news story or document, she said the staff must consult the Cherokee Bible or other older documents written in Cherokee to find the proper words. It can be a challenge, but Sixkiller said she enjoys it because it allows her to discover new words and explore Cherokee thought written in the syllabary.
Some older documents, more than a century old, force the translation department to gather to provide input about the meaning of old Cherokee words that are no longer used.
“When there’s more people to study then we throw ideas around, and we say ‘I think they meant this.’ After awhile it all comes together,” she said.
Sixkiller said she considers her translation legacy at times. Many books and documents she has translated into Cherokee have her name on them.
“My great-great-great grandchildren may pick up a book and say ‘I know this person. That was my great-great-great grandma.’ That’s what I think I’m leaving behind,” she email@example.com
ᏓᎵᏆ, ᎣᎦᎵᎰᎻ--- ᏒᎯᏰᏯ ᏱᏄᎵᏍᏔᏂ ᏓᏛᏓᏍᏗᏍᎬ ᏧᎦᏴᎵᎨ ᎠᏂᏃᎮᏢᏍᎬ ᎤᏪᏘ ᎧᏃᎮᏢᏅ ᎠᎴ ᎦᎸᏉᏗ ᎪᏪᎵ ᎪᏪᎳᎨᎥᎢ ᎷᏱᏂ ᏑᏓᎵᏗᎯᎯ ᎠᎢᏒ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏗᏁᎶᏗᏍᎩ ᏄᎵᏍᏔᏅᎢ.
ᏑᏓᎵᏗᎯᎯ, ᏑᏓᎵᏍᎪ ᏑᏓᎵ ᏳᏕᏘᏴᏓ. ᎤᏛᏒᏃ ᎠᎵᏦ ᎾᎥ ᏄᎾᏓᎴᏫᏒ ᎠᏆᏅᎩᏱ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᎠᎴ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎤᏩᏌ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᎨᎳ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏓᏕᎶᏆᏍᎬ ᎤᎴᏅᎭ.
“ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎤᏩᏌ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎣᏥᏬᏂᏍᎬ ᎣᎨᏅᏒ. ᏗᎩᎦᏴᎵᎨᏃ ᎢᏧᎳ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎩ. ᏧᎩᏨᏅᏓ ᎦᏛᎩᏍᎬ ᎠᏆᏕᎶᏆᎡ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ,” ᎤᏛᏅᎢ. “ ᎠᏆᏛᏏᏗᏒ ᎾᏍᎩᏊ ᎤᏩᏌ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎡᎭ ᎨᎵᏍᎬᎢ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᏄᏓᎴ ᎠᏆᏕᎶᎰᏒ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎠᏆᎴᏅᎭ ᏕᎦᏕᎶᏆᏍᎬᎢ.”
ᏒᎯᏰᏯ ᎤᎾᎵᏍᏓᏴᏃᏅ ᏱᏄᎵᏍᏔᏂ, ᏏᏓᏁᎸ ᎠᎾᏛᏓᏍᏗᏍᎬ ᎤᏂᏙᏓ ᎧᏃᎮᏢᏍᎬ ᎤᏪᏘ ᏗᎧᏃᎮᏢᏅᎢ ᏥᏕᎭ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᎯᎠ ᏗᎧᏃᎮᏢᏅ Ꮟ ᏓᏂᏃᎮᏍᎪ ᎠᎴ ᎪᏪᎳ ᏓᏃᏢᏍᎪ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏧᏃᏪᎳᏅ ᏧᏪᏘ ᏗᎧᏃᎮᏓ ᏧᎾᏁᎶᏙᏗ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎬᎢ.
“ᏗᎧᏃᎮᏢᏅ ᏥᏓᏂᏃᏍᎬ ᎴᎯᏳ ᏥᎨᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎣᎬᏙᏗ ᎠᏰᎸᏒ ᏙᎦᏛᏏᏗᏒᎢ. ᎾᏍᎩ ᏱᏚᏂᏃᎮᏢ ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᏣᏛᎦᏅ ᏣᏓᏅᏖᏙᏗ ᎠᏰᎸᏒ ᎠᎴ ᏣᏕᎶᏆᏍᏙᏗ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. ᎡᏥᏃ ᎤᏃᎮᏢᏗ ᏱᏄᎵᏍᏔᏂ, ᎪᏪᎵ ᏧᎭᎩᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏗᎦᎸᏉᏓ ᏓᎪᎵᏰᏍᎬᎢ.”
ᎠᎨᏳᏣ ᏥᎨᏒ, ᏑᏓᎵᏗᎯᎯ ᎤᏅᏛ ᏧᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎨᏒ ᏧᎪᎵᏰᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏕᎪᏪᎸ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏱᏄᎵᏍᏔᏂ ᎨᎳᏃ ᏗᎬᏩᎪᎵᏱᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎤᏥ ᏧᏤᎵ ᏣᎳᎩᎭ ᏗᎪᏪᎳ ᏗᎦᎸᏉᏗ ᎪᏪᎳ. ᎠᏎᏃ Ꮭ ᎾᎯᏳᏊ ᏱᏚᏕᎶᏆᎡᎢ ᎤᏔᎾ ᏄᎵᏍᏔᎾ ᎠᎴ ᏧᏓᏘᎾᎢ ᎨᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏚᏓᎸᏅ ᏧᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏧᎪᎵᏰᏗ ᎪᏪᎵ ᏧᎭᎨᏓ ᎠᎴ ᏧᏬᏪᎶᏗᎢ.
“ᎯᎸᏍᎩᏃ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᏓᏆᎦᏎᏍᏔᏅ ᏗᎩᎪᎵᏰᏗ ᎤᎬᏩᏢ, ᏌᏊᏍᎩᏂ ᎢᎦ ᎠᏆᏅ ᎠᎴ ᏫᏓᎩᏁᏒ ᎪᏪᎵ ᏗᎦᎸᏉᏗ ᎠᎩᏍᏚᎢᏒ ᎠᎴ ᎠᎩᎪᎵᏰᎥ ᎤᏓᏡᎬ ᎠᎴ ᏂᎦᏓ ᎠᏯᏙᎸ ᎠᎩᎪᎵᏰᎥᎢ. ᏄᎵᏍᏙᏔᏅᏃ ᏗᎩᎪᎵᏰᏗ ᎠᏆᏚᎵᏍᎬ ᏥᎪᏩᏘᏍᎬ ᎡᏥ ᏓᎪᎵᏰᏍᎬ ᏧᏬᏚ ᎧᏃᎮᏢᏍᎪ ᎠᎪᎵᏰᏍᎬ ᎾᎿ ᎪᏪᎵᎢ.” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.
ᎤᎴᏅᎲ ᏚᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎲ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ Cultural Resource ᎠᏰᎵ ᎾᎿ ᏔᎵ ᏯᎦᏴᎵ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒᎢ, ᎬᏗᏍᎬ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ. ᎢᎬᏱᏃ ᎨᏒ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏓᏕᏲᎲᏍᎬ ᎾᎥ ᏄᎾᏓᎴᏫᏒ ᏚᏙᏢᏩᏗᏒ ᏔᎵᏚ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ. ᎠᏗᏍᎬᏃ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏥᏓᏕᏲᎲᏍᎬ ᎾᎿ ᏲᏁᎦ ᏗᎪᏪᎶᏙᏗ ᎠᏅᏗᏍᎬ ᎠᎯᏗᎬ ᎨᏒ ᎤᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎠᏰᎸᏒᎢ.
ᎾᎯᏳᏃ ᏥᎨᏒ ᏔᎵ ᏯᎦᏴᎵ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒ, ᏑᏓᎵᏗᎯᎯ ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎤᏓᏁᏟᏴᏌ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏗᎪᏪᎶᏙᏗ ᎤᎪᏓ ᏓᏅᏗᎭ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏱᏚᎾᏕᏲᎾ. ᎤᎪᏙᏃ ᎠᏛᎪᏗ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎬ ᏂᎬᎠᏊ ᎾᏃ ᏍᎪᎯ ᎾᏕᏘᏯ ᏥᎨᏒᎢ.
“ᎠᏯᏃ ᎨᏒ, ᏗᎪᏪᎶᏙᏗ ᏓᏆᏕᎶᏆᏍᏔᏅ ᎠᎴ ᎪᎯᏗ ᏚᏟᎢᎵᏙᎸ ᎠᎴ ᎯᎠ ᏗᎬᏙᏗ ᏲᏁᎦ ᎠᎪᎵᏰᏙᏗ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬ. “ᎠᏯᏃ ᎨᏒ, ᎾᏍᎩ (ᏲᏁᎦ ᏗᎪᏪᎶᏙᏗ) ᏱᏓᏳᏂᏍᏕᎸᎯ ᏗᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎩ ᎤᏂᏁᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏂᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎨᎵᏍᎪᎢ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏗᎪᎵᏰᏙᏓ ᏚᏁᎳᏁ ᏏᏉᏯ ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᎢᎩᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ.”
ᎤᏬᎯᏳ ᎠᎯᏗᎬ ᎨᏒ ᎦᏳᎳ ᎦᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᏱᎩ ᏧᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏧᎪᎵᏰᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏧᏬᏪᎶᏗᎢ. ᎠᏎᏍᎩᏂ, ᏗᏁᎶᏗᏍᎩ ᏱᎩ ᎤᎪᏛ ᎤᏅᏗ ᏳᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎾᏃ ᎤᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎤᏩᏌ.
ᎠᏁᎶᏗᏍᎩ ᏱᎩ ᎠᏎ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏣᏓᏅᏖᎢᏗ. ᎠᏎ ᏣᎳᎩᎭ ᏣᏓᏅᏖᏗ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.
ᎤᏩᏌ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏂᏐᎢ ᏗᎾᏁᎶᏗᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏙᏢᏒ ᎨᏥᏅᏫᏍᏔᏅ ᏧᏂᏍᏕᎸᏗ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏐᎢ ᏚᎾᏙᏢᏒ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏧᎾᏁᎶᏙᏗᎢ. ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᎠᎾᏁᎶᏗᏍᎬ ᏧᎾᏍᏗ ᏗᏂᏲᏟ ᏣᎳᎩᎭ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ , ᎾᏍᎩᏍᏊ ᏩᎦᎸᎳᏗᏴ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗᎢ, ᎪᏪᎵ ᏚᏂᎾᎥ ᎠᎴ ᏚᏂᏍᏆᏂᎪᏛ, ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏂᏧᎵᏍᏔᏅᏍᏔᏅ ᎠᏃᏪᎵᏍᎩ ᎠᎴ ᏱᏚᏂᏢᎦᏗᎨᏥᎪᎵᏰᏗᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏧᏂᏢᎩᎢ. ᎠᎴᏗᏍᏊ ᏂᎦᏓ ᎦᎵᏦᏕ ᎢᏗᏢ ᎠᎴ ᏙᏯᏗᏢ ᏥᏕᎪᏪᎸ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏚᎾᏓᏁᎸ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏔᎾ ᏧᏂᏆᏂᏲᏍᏗ, ᎠᏠᏯᏍᏗ ᏙᏆᎴᎷ ᏧᏂᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏗᎴᏫᏍᏙᏗ ᏥᏕᎪᏪᎳ ᏂᎬ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏄᏩᎾᏅᎢ.
Ꮟ ᎤᎪᏛ ᎠᎾᏁᎶᏗᏍᎩ ᏂᏓᏂᎾᏢᏍᎬᎾ ᏥᎨᏒ, ᏑᏓᎵᏗᎯᎯ ᏓᏁᎶᏗᏍᎬ ᏗᎧᏃᎮᏢᏅ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏲᏁᎦ ᏗᎪᏪᎳ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏂᏕᎬᏁᎲ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎴᎯᏌᏅ ᎪᏪᎵ ᏗᏂᎴᏴᏗᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎬ. ᏧᏂᏅᏅᎢ ᎢᏴᏓᎭ, ᎤᏛᏅ, ᎯᏍᎩ ᏓᏁᎶᏗᏍᎬ ᏗᎧᏃᎮᏢᏅ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏔᎵ ᎠᎴ ᏦᎢ ᏧᏒᎯᏓ ᏧᏅᏙᏗ. ᎪᎢᏃ ᎨᏒ, ᎠᏂᏐᎢ ᎠᎾᏁᎶᏗᏍᎩ ᎬᏩᏍᏕᎵᏍᎪ ᏗᏁᎶᏔᏅ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏠᏯ ᎢᎦ ᏗᎧᏃᎮᏢᏅ ᏏᏅᏓ ᎨᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎪᏪᎵ ᏗᏂᎴᏴᏗᏍᎩ ᎠᎴ ᏓᏏᎳᏕᏫᏒ ᏧᏅᏙᏗ.
“ᎠᎯᏗᎨᏃ ᏂᎦᎵᏍᏗᎪ ᏃᏊ ᎨᏒᎢ, ᎠᎴ ᏃᏊ ᏥᎩ ᎡᎵᏊ ᏯᏁᎶᏗ ᏌᏊ ᎪᏪᎳᏅ ᏯᏛᎾ ᏔᎵᎭ ᎢᏳᏟᎶᏓ ᎠᎴ ᏭᎪᏛ ᏦᎢ ᎢᏳᏟᎶᏓ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.
ᎢᏴᏓᎭ, ᏙᏣᏁᎶᏗᏍᎬ ᎢᏤ ᎧᏃᎮᏢᏅ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏪᏘ ᎪᏪᎳᏅ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎬ ᎪᏪᎵ ᏗᎦᎸᏉᏗ ᏓᏅᏗᏍᎪ ᎠᎴ ᏧᏪᏘ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏗᎪᏪᎳᏅ ᏙᏨᏗᏍᎪ ᎣᎩᏩᏛᏗ ᏚᏳᎪᏛ ᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ ᎣᎪᏪᎶᏙᏗ. ᏍᏓᏯ ᏗᎦᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ ᎨᏐ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᏑᏓᎵᏗᎯᎯ ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎠᎵᎮᎵᎪ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏱᏄᎵᏍᏔᏅ ᏂᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗᏍᎪ ᎠᎪᎵᏰᏓ ᏂᎦᎵᏗᏍᎬ ᎩᎶ ᎤᏓᏅᏖᎸ ᎤᏬᏪᎳᏅ ᏣᎳᎩᎭᎢ.
ᎢᎦᏓ ᏧᏪᏘ ᏗᎪᏪᎳᏅ, ᏯᏛᎾ ᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᎢᏴ ᎢᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᎨᏐ, ᎠᏂᏩᏘᏍᎪ ᏗᎾᏁᎶᏗᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎬ ᏧᏪᏘ ᎢᏗᎦᏪᏍᏗ ᏕᎪᏪᎸ ᎠᎴ ᏳᏍᏗ ᏕᎦᏛᎬᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏝᏃ ᎭᏩ ᏱᏗᎦᏔᏃ ᎪᎯ ᎨᏒᎢ.
“ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏂᎪᏛ ᎤᎾᎦᏎᏍᏙᏗ ᏱᎩ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏃᎵᎬ ᎠᏂᏃᎮᏍᎪ ‘ᎤᏍᏆᏂᎪᏓ ᎧᏃᎮᏢᏗ ᎨᏐᎢ’
ᎠᎴ ᏂᎦᏓ ᏌᏊ ᎠᏃᎵᎪᎢ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.
ᏑᏓᎵᏗᎯᎯ ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏁᎶᏗᏍᎬ ᏄᎵᏔᏅᏍᏔᏅ ᎤᏂᎪᎵᏰᏓ ᎢᎨᏎᏍᏗ.
ᏧᎪᏓ ᏗᎪᏪᎵ ᎠᎴ ᏧᏪᏘ ᏗᎪᏪᎳᏅ ᏧᏁᎶᏔᏅ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎢᏧᏩᏁᎸ ᏚᏙᎥ ᏕᎪᏪᎶᎢ.
“ᏗᏆᏤᎵ ᏦᎢᏁ ᎢᏗᎬᎩᎵᏏ ᎢᎴᎯᏳ ᏛᏂᏝᏏ ᎪᏪᎵ ᎠᎴ ᎯᎠ ᏂᏓᎦᏪᏏ ‘ᏥᏲᎵᎦ ᎯᎠ ᎠᏏᏴᏫ. ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᎯᎠ ᎤᏔᎾ, ᎤᏔᎾ, ᎤᏔᎾ ᎡᎵᏏ ᎨᏒᎢ. ‘
ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏂᎨᎵᏍᎪᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏓᏥᎢᏯ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.