BUNCH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation on Oct. 29 finalized its acquisition of the Greasy School campus in southern Adair County. Cherokee Nation will repurpose the site into the tribe’s second Cherokee language immersion school starting with the 2022-2023 school year.
Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner first announced plans to open a second immersion school during the annual State of the Nation address in September, held during the Cherokee National Holiday. The new immersion school will be a critical part of the tribe’s historic efforts to preserve and perpetuate the Cherokee language.
Cherokee Nation acquired the Greasy School campus by working with the Dahlonegah Public Schools Board of Education and Superintendent Jeff Limore. The Dahlonegah school system, also located in Adair County, operates Greasy School and will cease its operation at the end of the semester.
“We’re excited to acquire this 13-acre property to serve as our tribe’s second Cherokee Immersion Language School,” Chief Hoskin said during a special ceremony at the school campus held Oct. 29. “I have said before that our language and our culture remain our most important link to the past. They bind us together today and play a crucial role in ensuring we remain a distinct people for generations to come. The new Cherokee language immersion school site will help teach children of Adair County to read, write and speak our language so that more youth carry on our culture and traditions. I appreciate the leadership of former Chief of Staff Todd Enlow and our language and education departments for working with the Dahlonegah school system to get this done.”
The Greasy School building is approximately 25,000 square feet, which includes a gymnasium and kitchen located on 13 acres in the Greasy community south of Stilwell. The tribe’s purchase includes all outdoor buildings, fixtures, furniture and equipment.
“All of us in office make the Cherokee language a priority,” said District 8 Tribal Councilor Shawn Crittenden. “But, this acquisition tells me that real action is being taken to make revitalizing our language a priority out in our communities, which is a winning strategy.”
The Greasy School building is less than 10 years old and was constructed after the original historic building was destroyed by fire in 2009.
“Throughout my visits on the campaign trail, I’ve spoken to many about the need to bring more resources for Adair County to have access to saving our language,” said District 7 Tribal Councilor Joshua Sam. “Knowing that a Cherokee community such as Greasy, where my father grew up, is going to be the place we take a stand to ensure our language endures for the next 200 years, I am proud to be a small part of that and excited for the jobs it will create for our speakers. Our county is, by percentage, the largest Cherokee-populated county in our reservation. So, I know Adair County and the Greasy community will embrace our new Cherokee immersion facility and take pride in strengthening our language.”
Creation of a new immersion school is part of the Durbin Feeling Language Preservation Act signed into law by Chief Hoskin in 2019. The Act provided an additional $16 million to invest into language preservation efforts – the largest language investment in Cherokee Nation history.
“I’m proud of the Cherokee Nation for taking advantage of an opportunity where we could put a Cherokee language immersion school in the middle of the largest hotspot of Cherokee speakers in the world,” said Cherokee Nation Language Department Executive Director Howard Paden. “Greasy is a small, traditional community surrounded by traditional communities such as Bell, Cherry Tree, Dahlonegah, Rock Fence, and Candy Mink Springs. This area is one of the few places left in the world where a child can spend all day in our immersion school and go home to a Cherokee-speaking home. We can’t wait for the community to stand up with us in the endeavor because we plan to use every inch of this school to help us save who we are.”
It is estimated that there are only about 2,000 fluent Cherokee speakers in the Cherokee Nation.
The tribe’s current immersion school operates in Tahlequah as part of the Cherokee Nation Language Department. In the immersion environment, students learn by reading, writing and speaking in the Cherokee language each day.