TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation recently unveiled renderings of the future Durbin Feeling Language Center and five new efficiency homes for Cherokee speakers that will be located next to the facility in Tahlequah.
The former Cherokee Casino Tahlequah building is being remodeled and expanded into the Durbin Feeling Language Center, named in honor of the late Cherokee linguist Durbin Feeling. The new language center will house all of the tribe’s language programs, including the Cherokee Immersion Charter School, the Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program, and the Cherokee Nation translation team. This will be the first time all Cherokee Nation language programs will be housed together under one roof.
“The creation of the Durbin Feeling Language Center is going to be an important milestone in our efforts to preserve the Cherokee language,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “We owe it all to the vision of Durbin Feeling. The work that he did throughout his life to preserve the language is truly the foundation for this project, and I hope that he would be proud of what we will accomplish with it. Of course, I appreciate former Chief Bill John Baker for putting this great project into motion, and I am proud to see it through to completion.”
In 2019, the Council of the Cherokee Nation approved the Durbin Feeling Language Preservation Act, legislation introduced by Chief Hoskin and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner to provide an additional $16 million investment into preserving the Cherokee language. It is the largest language investment in Cherokee Nation history. Of the additional dollars set aside, $5 million will be used to create the new language center, which will be more than 46,000 square feet.
Five efficiency style homes are also being built for Cherokee speakers, helping to connect them to younger Cherokee language learners at the nearby language center.
“As a tribe, we are in exciting and unprecedented times for language revitalization,” said Cherokee Nation Language Department Executive Director Howard Paden. “The Durbin Feeling Language Center and the nearby language village are vital parts of this ongoing effort that will mark the significance of this moment and this era when we helped to preserve the heart of our Nation. We are humbled to be involved in this endeavor. For these reasons, I could not be more proud of my Nation.”
The Durbin Feeling Language Center will be built within fiscal year 2021. The five new homes for Cherokee speakers, including two one-bed units and three two-bed units, will be completed by the end of December 2020.
“This language center and the nearby housing village will be a huge advantage to speakers in our community,” said Deputy Chief Warner. “We’ll have one centralized location for speakers, and that will help preserve our precious language by connecting speakers with students. It will be a joy to watch the Cherokee language grow through the efforts taking place at the language center and the nearby housing community for Cherokee speakers.”
Learn more about the Cherokee Nation Language Department online at language.cherokee.org.