TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation is hosting a celebration of first language Cherokee speakers Friday, Sept. 27 at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah.
As a part of the United Nations General Assembly’s International Year of Indigenous Languages, the Cherokee Nation Translation Department and Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program have partnered to host the Celebration of Cherokee Speakers from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event will celebrate the Cherokee language and the carriers of the Cherokee language through fellowship, entertainment and gifts for speakers.
“Our language is intertwined with our identity as a people,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “The more we recognize and appreciate our speakers, the more we encourage the survival of a language that, without those speakers and the dedicated staff and educators of our tribe, would cease to exist. By celebrating our language and those who speak it, it will flourish in future generations.”
In 2016, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. This resolution was written to raise awareness of Indigenous languages and to celebrate the contribution they make to the world’s rich cultural diversity.
The international celebration also coincides with the Cherokee Nation’s efforts to preserve the Cherokee language. Among Chief Hoskin’s first-100-days-in-office initiatives is the largest investment in language programs in the Cherokee Nation’s history. The proposal will use millions of dollars in business profits to create a new language learning center, and will also quadruple the size of the Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program, an adult immersion program that pairs novice language learners with master-level fluent Cherokee speakers 40 hours a week for two years.
“When our people need the best doctors, lawyers or carpenters, with the proper resources, we can get them from all over the world,” said Howard Paden, director of the Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program. “The one thing that can’t be imported is the Cherokee language. The revitalization of this precious commodity will be determined from within. This is why it is so important that we as a people rally around our remaining speakers and learn from them.”
First-language Cherokee speakers who have not had the opportunity to sign the Cherokee Speaker Roll Book will have the chance to do so during the celebration of speakers. Entertainment will be provided by Cherokee storytellers, singers and fiddlers. Attendees should bring lawn chairs.
Learn more about the Cherokee language by visiting language.cherokee.org.