Teaching program helps keep Cherokee language alive

03/06/2019 09:00 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Railey Eastwood is a Cherokee Nation Teaching Program participant who is attending Northeastern State University to become a Cherokee language teacher. COURTESY
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Larry Carney, a Cherokee Nation Teaching Program participant, works on writing in the Cherokee language. The program gives students learning the Cherokee language the chance to earn an education degree at Northeastern State University. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation Teaching Program is designed to create certified Cherokee language speakers.

Operated by the CN, it gives students learning the Cherokee language the chance to earn an education degree at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah.

The scholarship pays for tuition, books, required fees for the degree program, a laptop and a housing allowance of $2,100 per semester.

“The scholarship is offered through the language department of education. It provides a full ride to Northeastern State University,” Raven Bruner, CNTP coordinator, said. “This program is for students who want to become teachers of the Cherokee language, either in the (CN) immersion school or public school system.”

Program criteria include demonstrations of conversations in the Cherokee language, a strong desire to learn Cherokee and having passion for the language. Applicants must have a strong desire to teach and work with children, must be Cherokee and enrolled as a full-time student at NSU in Tahlequah. Applicants also need to reside in the CN jurisdiction. Proof of residency is required. Applicants must understand participation in the program is a contractual, long-term agreement. They also need to be organized, creative and flexible and cannot participate if they are CN employees or employees of the tribe’s entities.

“I wanted to continue with learning and developing my language skills, while getting the opportunity to take higher education courses,” Larry Carney, CNTP participant, said. “I was raised by my grandfather who was a fluent Cherokee speaker, and when his sister died at the age of 107 years old, I knew they were going to be the last of their language. Once that happened, I got a sense of urgency to be a fluent Cherokee speaker to keep it alive.”

Once the criteria are met, the application process begins with a 500-to-1000-word essay submission about why the applicant would like to join the program. The application will require one of the three following test scores, ACT or equivalent, Cherokee Language Proficiency Test or certification from a Cherokee Language Program. Applicants must provide official high school and/or college transcripts, résumé or related work history and must agree to a full background check.

After these have been turned in and processed, the applicant will interview with a selection committee to demonstrate knowledge of the Cherokee language. Incomplete applications will not be considered. The selection committee will base its decision on a combination of factors, which include knowledge of the Cherokee language, enthusiasm for the Cherokee language and ability to complete long-term goals and have experience doing so.

“The Cherokee language is endangered, and we are solely responsible for this language as Cherokee people,” Railey Eastwood, CNTP participant, said. “There is nobody in this world that can take care of it like we can, and we must hold ourselves accountable for preserving our language.”


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