Cherokee Language Master/Apprentice Program graduates 4 pupils
From left to right are Mikah Glass, 28, of Greasy; Ricky Duvall, 48, of Lyons Switch; Stan Ross, 42, of Leach; and Robert Glass, 44, of Chalk Bluff. The four graduated from the Cherokee Language Master/Apprentice Program on Dec. 12 in Tahlequah. This is the third graduating class of Cherokee speakers and teachers. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Ricky Duvall, 48, of Lyons Switch, receives a framed certificate from Principal Chief Bill John Baker during a Dec. 12 Cherokee Language Master/Apprentice Program graduation ceremony at the Tahlequah Municipal Armory. Standing with Duvall are his wife Kay Duvall and mother Lizzie Duvall. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Language Master/Apprentice Program Manager Howard Paden places a copper gorget on CMLAP graduate Robert Glass, 44, of Chalk Bluff, during a graduation ceremony on Dec. 12 in Tahlequah. CMLAP graduates are able to speak and teach the language. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s Cherokee Language Master/Apprentice Program held its third graduation of Cherokee speakers, which should help keep the language vital, on Dec. 12 at the Tahlequah Municipal Armory.
Ricky Duvall, 48, of Lyons Switch; Robert Glass, 44, of Chalk Bluff; Mikah Glass, 28, of Greasy; and Stan Ross, 42, of Leach, partook in the ceremony that honored them and the CLMAP as it continues to produce Cherokee speakers who can teach the language.
“We created this program to build proficient teachers. Our goal is they learn language immersion techniques, they increase their language proficiency, so when they graduate our program after two years they have the knowledge, skill and language ability to teach in any environment,” CLMAP Curriculum Supervisor Ryan Mackey said.
Mikah Glass said a wish to speak Cherokee with his Cherokee-speaking father drove him to apply. He said one day when he was leaving his house he woke up his napping father. He said his father asked him in Cherokee where he was going, but quickly switched to English.
“I knew what he said in Cherokee…but it really shook me how my own father has to think about how he wants to talk to me. He can’t just talk to me how he wants to. He has to think before he talks to me, and that really hit me hard,” he said. “I need to learn. It’s not just that I want to. I need to because my father’s language, when he dies, was going to die with him. And now I’m here to carry that torch so our language doesn’t die.”
He said the application and acceptance process is stringent. After applying, CLMAP staff reviewed his application and then sent it to a separate group to be vetted. After candidates are chosen, staff members interview them twice.
“It’s a really scrutinized process. They really try to find out who will work good, and it’s not just some work program. I mean we’re trying to save our language,” Mikah Glass said.
He and the other three graduates showed off their Cherokee-speaking skills at the graduation. Each graduate went to the podium and spoke for 5 to 10 minutes in Cherokee about their families or why the being in the program was important.
Ricky Duvall said his first language was Cherokee, but when he started school he “lost it.” Also, he said his mother Lizzie Duvall, whose first language is Cherokee, is getting older and is speaking more Cherokee than English, and he wants to communicate with her better.
“So, that’s what this program meant to me, so that I can learn and regain a partial of what I’ve lost, and communicate a lot better in Cherokee,” he said.
He said the program’s most challenging parts were getting his brain and tongue to work together to speak the language and speaking only Cherokee a majority of the day.
“I could understand it (Cherokee), but I couldn’t get my speech to cooperate. Working with the speakers, and them working really slow with us, they got me going good,” he said.
He said he wants to continue to learn the language so that he can teach his children and grandchildren.
Mackey said the CLMAP addresses challenges in the existing CN language programs. The Cherokee Immersion Charter School focuses on children. Community language classes focus on enrichment. And the Northeastern State University program produces people with teaching certificates with a lot of background in language knowledge.
“But the NSU program doesn’t afford them the time they need to get up to the highest level of proficiency, so we had hoped to create a program to enable those graduates of the NSU program or even people who want to teach in the communities without a certification, to increase their proficiency and gain some skills in an immersion setting, which requires a different skill set than regular enrichment classes,” Mackey said.
Another important CLMAP component, he said, is bringing in students who have graduated from the immersion school and now attend Sequoyah High School. Those students visit the CLMAP office in Tahlequah, which allows them to speak to CLMAP instructors and students and increases their proficiency. Those students were also recognized during the Dec. 12 ceremony.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker, who spoke at the graduation, said the language was once under assault from the federal government, and Cherokee people were told that bilingual children had a difficult time in school. Since then it has been determined bilingual students usually do better in school than monolingual students.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this program. We’ve tried for the last 25 years to find a way to save our language. The immersion school is helping, but folks I’m telling you right now, you’ll lose it if you don’t use it,” he said. “This (language) is part of who we are.”
In four years, the CLMAP has graduated 10 Cherokee men and women who did not previously speak Cherokee but are now trained to speak and teach it. For more information, call 918-506-8920.