Basketball team uses Cherokee language to win title
BY AMBLE SMOKER
Cherokee One Feather
MURPHY, N.C. – Few instances can replicate the emotional power of athletic sporting events and the proud traditions of the Cherokee culture.
However, with the recent Smoky Mountain Conference tournament victory, the Cherokee Middle School boys basketball team proved to do just that when they defeated the Swain County Maroon Devils 40-30 on Feb. 6 at Murphy High School.
The Braves capped off a phenomenal year where they not only captured the SMC tournament championship, but did so in a manner that honors their cultural heritage while promoting the continuation of the Cherokee language.
CMS boys basketball coach Micah Swimmer has introduced the Cherokee language into his team’s game plan as a way to teach and perpetuate the language. Utilizing the Cherokee language, the young men learn vital words, phrases and numbers to assist with their learning development while also gaining a competitive advantage on the court.
“In high school, I remember playing against Choctaw Central and it amazed me to hear them speak their native language on the basketball court and football field,” Swimmer said. “My sophomore year, we were playing at home and the whole first half they were telling each other all kinds of stuff in their language, and we had no idea what they were saying.
“At halftime, my friend had an idea to say the Pledge of Allegiance. He said, ‘I will bring the ball up and I will yell a-tu-is-do-di (to promise) and you yell back tsi-tu-is-di (I promise) and cut to the basket.’ We felt proud because we were using our language and they didn’t know what we were saying,” he added. “After that night, I made it a goal of mine to learn our language and coach for the Braves while trying to preserve our language through sports. It has proved to be an advantage for my teams and instilled a sense of pride.”
Swimmer took those same concepts and incorporated them into his coaching style as all the plays and calls are in Cherokee. At a recent semifinals game, one of the players missed an open man and Swimmer yelled, “U-yv-sdi. U-tse-sdi wi-vi-si,” which translates to “Bitter. Give it to Opossum.” Both players understood the call and reacted accordingly.
When asked to elaborate on the importance of each player having a Cherokee name, Swimmer said each player has a Cherokee name they acquired when they came through my Cherokee language classes at Cherokee Central Schools.
“Most players chose their own names while some who had traditional last names, such as Walkingstick or Pheasant, usually took their own last name. Everyone knows who my boys are by their English names, but very few know who they are by their Cherokee names,” he said.
The Braves finished the season with a 15-2 record while clinching the SMC tournament title.
MURPHY, N.C. – ᎢᎸᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᏩᎪᏛ ᎾᎿ ᎤᏟᏂᎩᏓ ᏙᎦᏓᏅᏓᏗ ᏙᎦᏁᎶᏅ ᎣᎦᎳᏍᎦᎸᎲ ᎠᎴ ᎤᎵᎮᎵᏍᏗ ᏙᎦᏓᏅᏓᏛ ᎢᏯᏛᏁᎵᏗᏍᏓ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎾᎾᏛᏁᎲᎢ.
ᎠᏎᏍᎩᏂ, ᎾᏝᎬ ᎾᎿ Smokey Mountain ᏓᎾᏠᏍᎬ ᏧᎾᏁᎶᏅ ᎤᎾᏓᏠᏒ, ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᏟ ᏗᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎩ ᎠᏂᏧᏣ ᎠᎾᎳᏍᎦᎵᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎬ ᎤᏃᎯᏔᏅ ᏄᎾᏛᏁᎸ ᎾᎿ ᏧᏚᎵᏠᏒᎢ ᎾᎿ Swain ᏍᎦᏚᎩ Maroon Devils ᏅᎩᏍᎪ--ᏦᏍᎪᎯ ᎾᎿ ᎧᎦᎵ ᏑᏓᎵᏁ ᎾᎿ Murphy ᎦᎸᎳᏗ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗᎢ.
ᎾᏍᎩ Braves ᎤᏍᏆᏂᎪᏓ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗ ᏝᏙ ᎾᎿ ᎤᎾᏓᏠᏒ SMC ᎠᎾᎳᏍᎦᎵᏍᎩ ᏚᏂᏠᏒ ᏩᎦᎸᎳᏗᏴ, ᎠᏎᏍᎩᏂ ᏄᎾᏛᏁᎸ ᎢᏳᎾᏛᏁᎵᏓᏍᏗ ᎠᏅᏗᏍᎬ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎤᏂᏍᏕᎵᏍᎬᎢ.
CMS ᎠᏂᏧᏣ ᎠᎾᎳᏍᎦᎵᏍᎩ ᏗᏘᏂᏙᎯ Micah Swimmer ᎾᎿ ᏚᏑᏲᎾ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎾᎿ ᏗᎾᏁᎶᎲᏍᎦ ᏕᎨᏲᎲᏍᎪ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏅᏙᏛᎢ. ᎠᏅᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ, ᎠᏂᏓᎨ ᎠᏂᏍᎦᏯ ᎠᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎪ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏗᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ, ᎢᏗᎦᏪᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏎᏍᏗ ᎠᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎪ ᎠᎾᎦᏎᏍᏗᏍᎪ ᎧᏁᏉᎪ ᏓᎾᏁᎶᎲᏍᎬ ᎤᏅᏙᏗ.
“ᎾᎿ ᎦᎸᎳᏗ ᏥᏕᎦᏕᎶᏆᏍᎬ, ᎦᏅᏓᏗᏍᎪ ᏙᏣᏁᎶᎲᏍᎬ ᎠᏂᏣᏗ ᎠᏰᏟ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎤᏂᎷᏨ ᎠᎴ ᎠᎩᏍᏆᏂᎪᏒ ᎠᏆᏛᎦᏅ ᎤᏅᏌ ᎤᏂᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎬ ᏓᎾᏁᎶᎲᏍᎬ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏴᏖᏍᏗ ᏓᎾᏁᎶᎲᏍᎬ ᎤᏠᏯ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬSwimmer. “ᏍᎪᎯᏁ ᏥᏥᏯᎥ, ᏙᏣᏁᎶᎲᏍᎬ ᎣᎩᏅᏒ ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏰᏟ ᎢᎪᎯᏓ ᏙᏣᏁᎶᎲᏍᎬ ᏓᎾᏟᏃᎮᏍᎬ ᎤᏅᏌ ᎤᏂᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ, ᎠᎴ Ꮭ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᏲᏦᎵᎨ ᎾᏂᏪᏍᎬ.
“ᎠᏰᏟ ᎤᎾᎴᏅᎭ, ᎣᎩᎾᎵ ᎤᏓᏅᏖᎸ ᎾᎿ ᎢᏳᏪᏍᏗ Pledge of Allegiance. ᎤᏛᏅ, ‘ᏍᏆᏞᏍᏗ ᏱᏥᏌᎳᏛᎦ ᎠᎴ ᎯᎠ ᏱᏂᏥᏫ a-tu-is-do-di (ᎠᏚᏍᏙᏗ) ᎠᎴ ᏂᎯ ᏭᏣᏙᎯᏍᏗ tsi-tu-is-di (ᏥᏚᏍᏗ) ᎠᎴ ᏔᎷᏨ ᏪᏣᎶᏗ.’ ᎣᏣᎵᎮᎵᎬ ᏅᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎣᏨᏗᏍᎬ ᎣᎩᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ Ꮭ ᏳᎾᏅᏕ ᏃᏥᏪᏍᎬ,” ᎤᏛᏅ. “ᎾᎯᏳ ᎤᏒ ᎤᏓᎴᏅᏓ, ᏓᏊᎪᏔᏅ ᎠᏆᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎣᎩᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏘᏂᏙᎯ ᎾᏍᎩᎾ Braves ᎣᏣᎵᏏᏅᏗ ᎣᎩᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎾᎿ ᎣᏣᎳᏍᎦᎵᏍᎬᎢ. ᎬᏂᎨᏒ ᏄᎵᏍᏔᏅ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎣᎦᏜᏅᏓᏕᎸ ᎾᎿ ᏦᏣᏁᎶᎲᏍᎩ ᎠᎴ ᎤᎵᎮᎵᏍᏗ ᏧᎾᏓᏅᏓᏗᏍᏗᎢ.”
Swimmer ᎤᎩᏒ ᎤᏠᏯ ᎢᏯᏛᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏄᏩᏁᎸ ᎾᎿ ᏓᏘᏂᏙᎲ ᎾᎾᏛᏁᎲ ᏓᎾᏁᎶᎲᏍᎬ ᏂᎦᏓ ᏣᎳᎩ. ᎾᎿ ᏔᎵᏁ ᏓᎾᏁᎶᎲᏍᎬ, ᏌᏊ ᏗᏁᎶᎲᏍᎦ ᎤᏅᏛ ᎬᏂᎨᏒ ᎦᏙᎬ ᎠᏍᎦᏯ ᎠᎴ Swimmer ᎤᏙᎯᏒ, “U-yv-sdi. U-tse-sdi wi-vi-si,” ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎦᏛᎬᎢ “ᎤᏴᏍᏗ. ᎤᏤᏍᏗ ᏫᎥᏏ.” ᎢᏧᎳ ᏗᎾᏁᎶᎲᏍᎩ ᎤᏃᎵᏨ ᏄᏪᏒ ᎠᎴ ᏄᎾᏛᏁᎸᎢ.
ᎨᎦᏛᏛᎾ ᏄᎵᏍᎨᏗᏴ ᎠᏏᏴᏫᎭ ᏗᏁᎶᎲᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᏙᏍᏗ, Swimmer ᎤᏛᏅ ᎠᏏᏴᏫᎭ ᏗᏁᎶᎲᏍᎦ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏚᏙᎠ ᎤᏂᎩᏒ ᏧᏚᎾᏕᎶᏆᎥ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎾᎿ Cherokee Central Schools.
“ᏂᎦᏓᏊ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᏗᎾᏁᎶᎲᏍᎩ ᎤᏅᏌ ᎠᎾᏑᏱᏍᎪ ᏧᎾᏙᏍᏗ ᎢᎦᏓᏃ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎣᏂ ᏚᎾᏙᎥ ᎠᏅᏗᏍᎪ, ᏯᏛᎾ ᎠᏙᎳᏅᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏣᎳᎦ ᎢᎾᎨ ᎡᎯ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᏱᏄᏍᏗ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏛᏗᏍᎪᎢ. ᏂᎦᏓᏃ ᎠᏂᎦᏔᎯ ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᎨᏒ ᎠᏂᏧᏣ ᏲᏁᎦ ᏚᎾᏙᎥ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᎠᏂᎦᏲᏟ ᎤᎾᏄᏓ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎨᏒ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏚᎾᏙᎥᎢ,” ᎤᏛᏅᎢ.
ᎾᏍᎩᎾ Braves ᎤᏂᏍᏆᏛ ᏧᎾᏁᎶᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎾᎿ 15-2 ᏧᏂᏅᏅᎢ ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᎤᎾᏄᏓ ᎤᏂᏴᏍᏙᏗ SMC ᎠᎾᎳᏍᎦᎵᏍᎬ ᎤᏂᎩᏍᏗᎢ.