CHEROKEE TRANSLATORS: Translator strives to keep Cherokee language relevant
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen David Crawler has always had an interest in the Cherokee language. Working for the tribe’s translation department , he translates everything from books for the Cherokee Language Immersion School to signs for the tribe and health clinics.
He said his first language was Cherokee and he wasn’t introduced to English until attending public school. However, unlike many people learning a new language, he didn’t have a hard time.
“I was 7 years old when I first went to school, and I believe it was about that time we learned English, but it was not a difficult the transition (for me),” he said.
Crawler said he was a teenager when he learned to read and write Cherokee.
“When I went to high school up here at Sequoyah, I met this guy Durbin Feeling, and he had a Cherokee class there. So I took that class and I learned more,” he said. “So maybe in a week’s time I could read and writing came next. I was probably 16 years old at that time.”
Crawler said he’s always been interested in the Cherokee language and was recruited for the translation department by word of mouth.
“I always liked reading and writing in Cherokee…when I learned to write real good, someone told them (translation department) about me here and they paid me a visit one day and then brought me here on contract work and then later they hired me on full time to translate,” he said.
He said putting into words his love of translating is hard because there is not one aspect of that he loves more than the others. “I just like doing what I do.”
He said he has many stories written in the Cherokee syllabary on sheets of paper and that he would like to see those stories put into a book.
“What I’d like to see is to have all these story books of traditional stories all in English (written) all in the syllabary,” he said. “I got so many that I’d like to see all that put into a book for.”
Crawler said the translators often run into problems while translating stories for immersion students or even the Cherokee Phoenix where an English word may not exist in the Cherokee language.
“Sometimes we run into a place where we cannot say what it is because there is just no word. It doesn’t make any since in Cherokee. And that goes with the Phoenix too,” he said. “One day I went to (Durbin) and asked in this little phrase here it says ‘she clutched her heart’ and how do you do that in Cherokee? It’s impossible. We can say she done it, but in the way we would think (in Cherokee) is she took it out, literally. That’s the problem we run into a lot.”
However, Crawler said his favorite part of the job is working with immersion students.
“I see some little children up at immersion (school) and we talk Cherokee and some aren’t as good as others, but I think we’ve come a long way,” Crawler said.
He said he would also like to see immersion teachers write their own stories in the Cherokee language for their students.
“I would like to see us train those teachers to do those stories. Everybody tells stories. We tell stories all the time and maybe when you go home that’s a story,” he said. “There’s a lot of work still (for the language), a lot of work.”
ᏓᎵᏆ, ᎣᎦᎵᎰᎹ.--- ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎨᎳ ᎤᎵᏍᎦᏂ ᎠᏓᏅᏏᏁᎦ ᏂᎪᎯᎸ ᎤᎵᏍᎨᏗ ᏄᎵᏍᏓᏁᎲ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ. ᏚᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎲ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏗᎾᏁᎶᏗᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎬ, ᏓᏁᎶᏗᏍᎪ ᏗᎪᏪᎵ ᏂᏓᎬᎴᏂᏍᎩ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩᎭ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏧᏅᏙᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏗᎪᏪᎳ ᏥᏂᏕᎬᏓ ᏂᎬ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎠᎴ ᎥᏱᎸ ᏄᏛᎾᏕᎬ ᎤᎾᏓᎪᎵᏰᏗᎢ.
ᎤᏛᏅᏃ ᎢᎬᏱ ᎤᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎨᏎᎢ ᎠᎴ Ꮭ ᏲᏁᎦ ᏯᏛᎩᏍᎨ ᎩᎳ ᏓᏕᎶᏆᏍᎬ ᎤᎴᏅᎭ. ᎠᏎᏍᎩᏂ, ᏝᎾ ᎤᏂᎪᏛ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᏥᏄᎾᏍᏗ ᏱᏄᏍᏕᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗᎢ ᎢᏤ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ, Ꮭ ᏙᎯᏳ ᏍᏓᏯ ᏱᏄᎵᏍᏓᏁᎴᎢ ᎠᏕᎶᏆᏍᎬᎢ.
“ᎦᎵᏉᎩ ᏯᏆᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᏥᎨᏒ ᎢᎬᏱ ᏣᏆᎴᏅᎲ ᏕᎦᏕᎶᏆᏍᎬ, ᎠᎴ ᎠᏉᎯᏳ ᎾᎯᏳ ᎠᏆᏕᎶᏆᎥ ᎠᎩᎵᏏ ᎦᏪᏂᎯᏍᏗ, (ᎠᏯᏃ) ᏝᏙ ᎤᏦᏍᏗ ᏱᎾᏩᎵᏍᏓᏁᎴ ᎠᏆᏁᎶᏙᏗᎢ,” ᎤᏛᏅᎢ.
ᎠᏓᏅᏏᏁᎦ ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎠᏫᏄᏣᏊ ᏥᎨᏎ ᏚᏕᎶᏆᎠ ᏧᎪᎵᏰᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏧᏬᏪᎶᏗ ᏗᏣᎳᎩ.
“ᎦᎸᎳᏗ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏧᏓᏆᏕᎶᏆᎥ Ꮎ ᏏᏉᏲ, ᏙᎩᎾᏙᎵᏨ ᎠᏍᎦᏯ Durbin Feeling ᏧᏙᎩᏓ, ᎠᎴ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏓᏕᏲᎲᏍᎬᎢ. ᎾᎿᎾ ᏓᏆᏕᎶᏆᎥ ᎠᎴ ᎤᎪᏛ ᏓᏆᏕᎶᏆᎥ,” ᎤᏛᏅ. “ᏯᏛᎾ ᏒᎾᏙᏓᏆᏍᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎡᎵᏊ ᏥᎪᎵᏰᏍᎬ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏉᏪᎶᏗ ᎣᏂ ᎤᏟᎶᏢᎢ. ᏓᎳᏚ ᎠᏎ ᏯᏆᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᎨᏎ ᎾᎯᏳᎢ.”
ᎠᏓᏅᏏᏁᎦ ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᏂᎪᎯᎸ ᎤᎵᏍᎨᏗ ᏄᎵᏍᏓᏁᎲ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎠᎦᏑᏰᏒ ᏗᎾᏁᎶᏗᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎬ ᎾᎿ ᎧᏁᏨᎢ.
“ᏂᎪᎯᎸ ᎠᎩᎸᏉᏛ ᏗᎩᎪᎵᏰᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏉᏪᎶᏗ ᏗᏣᎳᎩ……. ᏣᏆᏕᎶᏆᎥ ᏗᏉᏪᎶᏗ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎨᏒ, ᎨᎶ ᏚᏃᎯᏎᎴ Ꮎ (ᏗᎾᏁᎶᏗᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎬ) ᎠᏯ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎡᎵᏊ ᎬᏩᏁᎶᏙᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎠᎴ ᏫᎬᎩᏩᏛᎯᏙᎸ ᏌᏊ ᎢᎦ ᎠᎴ ᎥᏆᏘᏃᏢ ᎾᎿ ᎠᎭᏂ ᎪᏪᎳ ᏙᎪᏪᎳᏅ ᎧᏁᏨ ᏏᏅᏓ ᎥᏆᏈᏴᎡᎯ ᎠᏎᏃ ᎣᏂ ᎬᎩᎾᏢᏅ ᏃᏊ ᏥᏓᎩᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎯ,” ᎤᏛᏅᎢ.
ᎤᏛᏅ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏗᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ ᏓᏁᎶᏗᏍᎬ ᎤᎸᏉᏗ ᏍᏓᏯ ᎠᏩᏛᏗ ᎢᏗᎬᏁᏗ ᏝᏃ ᎾᏍᎩᏊ ᎤᏩᏌ ᏳᎸᏉᏓ ᎾᏃ ᏐᎢ ᎤᏠᏯ ᏚᎸᏉᏓ. “ᎠᎩᎸᏉᏓ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏂᎦᏛᏁᎲᎥ.”
ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎤᎪᏓ ᏚᎾᎢ ᏗᎧᏃᎮᏢᏅ ᏗᎪᏪᎳ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩᎭ ᎠᎴ ᏳᏚᎳ ᏧᎪᏩᏛᏗ ᎯᎠ ᏗᎧᏃᎮᏢᏅ ᏗᎪᏪᎳ ᎢᏧᎵᏍᏙᏗᎢ.
“ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎠᏆᏚᎵᏍᎬ ᎠᎩᎪᏩᏛᏗ ᎯᎠ ᏂᎦᏓ ᏲᏁᎦᎭ ᏗᎧᏃᎮᏢᏅ ᏗᎪᏪᎳ ᏥᏕᎦᎾ ᏣᎳᎩᎭ ᎢᏗᎬᏁᏗᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬ. “ᎤᎪᏓ ᏓᎩᎾ ᏗᎪᏪᎳ ᎾᏍᎩᏍᏊ ᏯᏆᏚᎵ ᏗᎩᎪᏩᏛᏗ ᎪᏪᎳ ᏧᏚᏢᏗᎢ.”
ᎠᏓᏅᏏᏁᎦ ᎤᏛᏅ ᎠᎾᏁᎶᏗᏍᎩ ᏴᏓᎭ ᏩᏂᎷᎪ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ ᎾᎲᎾ ᎨᏒ ᎾᎿ ᏓᎾᏁᎶᏗᏍᎬ ᏧᎾᏍᏗ ᏗᏂᏲᏟ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏧᏅᏙᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎴᎯᏌᏅ ᎪᏪᎵ ᏗᎦᎴᏴᏔᏅ ᏕᎪᏪᎸ ᏓᎾᏁᎶᏗᏍᎬ ᏧᏃᏪᎳᏅᎢ.
“ᎢᏴᏓᎭ ᎣᏥᏩᏗᏍᎪ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏲᏁᎦ ᎪᏪᎳ Ꮭ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏯᎭ ᎢᎦᏪᏍᏗ. ᎾᏍᎩ ᏲᏁᎦ ᏂᎬᎾ ᏯᏁᏢᏔᏂ Ꮭ ᏱᏓᏙᎵᎪ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏱᏂᎬᏁᎳ ᏳᏩᎪᎵᏰᎠ. ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏠᏯ ᎾᏍᏊ ᎪᏪᎵ ᏧᎴᎯᏌᏅ ᏧᏃᏪᎳᏅ ᏙᏣᏁᎶᏗᏍᎬᎢ,” ᎤᏛᏅᎢ. “ᏌᏊ ᎢᎦ ᏥᏩᏛᎲᏒ (Durbin) ᎠᎴ ᏥᏯᏛᏛᏅ ᎯᎠ ᏧᎪᏪᎳ ᎯᎠ ᏂᎬᏅᎢ ‘she clutched her heart’ ᎠᎴ ᎦᏙ ᎬᏗ ᏣᎳᎩᎭ ᏱᏅᎬᏁᎭ? Ꮭ ᏱᏅᎦᎵᏍᏗ. ᏂᎦᎠᏭ ᏱᎪᏪᎳᎾ ᎾᏛᏁᎲᎢ, ᎯᎢᏃ ᏱᏄᏍᏓ ᏲᏣᏓᏅᏛᎵ ᎣᏥᏣᎳᎩ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᎴᏎᎢ ᎤᏓᏅᏙᎢ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎣᏥᏩᏘᏍᎪ ᏙᏣᏁᎶᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎤᎪᏗ.”
ᎠᏎᏍᎩᏂ, ᎠᏓᏅᏏᏁᎦ ᎤᏛᏅ ᏭᎸᏉᏛ ᎢᏳᏛᏗ ᏚᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎲ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩᎭ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏗᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎩ ᏧᏍᏕᎸᏗᏱ.
“ᎦᏥᎪᏩᏘᏍᎪ ᏗᏂᏲᏟ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩᎭ (ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ) ᎠᎴ ᏣᎳᎩᎭ ᏙᏣᏟᏃᎮᏍᎪ ᎠᎴ ᎢᎦᏓ Ꮭ ᎣᏍᏓ ᏯᏂᏬᏂᏍᎪ ᎠᏂᏐᎢᏃ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎪ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᎤᏓᏅᎯᏓ ᎢᎦᏂᎩᏓ ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎠᏓᏅᏏᏁᎦ.
ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏳᏚᎳ ᎤᎪᏩᏛᏗ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩᎭ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏗᎾᏕᏲᎲᏍᎩ ᎤᏅᏌ ᏧᏃᏪᎶᏗ ᎤᏂᏃᎮᏢᏅ ᏣᎳᎩᎭ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏗᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎩ ᏧᏅᏙᏗ.
“ᏯᏆᏚᎵᏃ ᎾᏍᎩᏗᎾᏕᏲᎲᏍᎩ ᏗᎨᏲᏗ ᏧᏃᏪᎶᏗ ᏧᏪᏘ ᏗᎧᏃᎮᏢᏅ ᏥᏕᎭ ᎤᏅᏌ ᏧᏃᏪᎶᏗ. ᎾᏂᎥ ᏴᏫ ᎠᏂᏃᎮᏢᏍᎪ. ᎠᏯᏅ ᎣᏥᏃᎮᏢᏍᎪ ᏂᎪᎯᎸ ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᏊ ᏯᏂᎩᏌ ᏦᏪᏅᏒᏗᏢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎧᏃᎮᏢᏓ ᎠᏙᏢᏍᎪ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. “ᎤᎪᏓ ᎤᏓᎷᎳ ᏗᎦᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ (ᎾᏍᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎤᎬᏩᏟ), ᎤᎪᏓ.