TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – With only an estimated 2,500 fluent Cherokee speakers worldwide, Cherokee Nation’s investment in the preservation and promotion of the Cherokee language has never been more important.
A new exhibit at John Ross Museum is providing a closer look at how that investment has been implemented in classroom settings, from the Cherokee Immersion School to the Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program, and everything in between.
CWY 101: Cherokee Language Preservation in the Classroom runs through Dec. 31 and is part of the tribe’s bicentennial celebration honoring the impact of Sequoyah’s historic literary achievement.
“After Sequoyah revealed his syllabary 200 years ago, literacy in Cherokee Nation increased at an astounding rate,” said Krystan Moser, manager of cultural collections and exhibits for Cherokee Nation. “However, the Cherokee language was gradually spoken less over the time and within 100 years of the syllabary’s introduction, concerns grew that the language would eventually be lost forever.”
The exhibit examines Cherokee Nation’s efforts to reverse the decline in fluent speakers, such as the introduction of language courses as early as 1941 by former Cherokee Nation Principal Chief J.B. Milam. It also features a look at the present-day Cherokee Immersion School and the 2019 Durbin Feeling Language Preservation Act, which provided an additional $16 million to support language preservation, the largest language investment in Cherokee Nation history.
“Keeping our language alive is an important part of preserving our culture for the next generations,” Moser said. “We look forward to offering a variety of programs and exhibits throughout our yearlong celebration of the syllabary, and hope the public will join us to learn more about Cherokee Nation’s language preservation efforts and opportunities.”
The John Ross Museum highlights the life and legacy of John Ross and houses exhibits and interactive displays on the Trail of Tears, Civil War, Cherokee Golden Age and Cherokee Nation’s passion for education. The museum is housed in an old, rural school building, known as School #51, and sits at the foot of Ross Cemetery, where John Ross and other notable Cherokee citizens are buried. It is located at 22366 S. 530 Rd. in Park Hill, Oklahoma.
For information on Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism, including museum operations, please call (877) 779-6977 or visit www.VisitCherokeeNation.com.