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Cherokee Nation announces upcoming plans to preserve language

Posted at 6:56 PM, Oct 10, 2023

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation is urging for more steps to keep the Cherokee language alive, announcing these efforts at the First Language & Fluent Cherokee Speaker Gathering on Tuesday.

"This is the largest speaker gathering in modern Cherokee Nation history," the emcee, Canaan Duncan, announced. "Right here in Tahlequah, Oklahoma."

Tahlequah is also home to the Durbin Feeling Language Center, a hub for Cherokee language immersion. The Cherokee Nation's Principal Chief, Chuck Hoskin Jr., shared plans for the center's expansion.

"We propose the construction of a $30 million Cherokee Nation Immersion middle school," Hoskin said. "This morning I signed a directive to identify opportunities for language campus expansion to other communities."

The Nation's Deputy Chief, Bryan Warner, emphasized that this initiative must go beyond just preservation. "Not just save the language, but as many have said before, to perpetuate that language," said Warner. "It is a language of love, it is a language that has stood the test of time."

D.J. McCarter, a native Cherokee speaker raised near Tahlequah, cherishes the language through his parents' upbringing. "That's all they spoke. My grandma and grandpa, my uncles and aunt, everyone around me in the neighborhood," McCarter said.

Having taught Cherokee at Sequoyah High, McCarter believes actual usage outside of the classroom is vital. "The schools that they're building, they've got the parents involved," he said. "Before, kids would be in the language classes, go home, and never hear it anymore. If you don't hear the Cherokee language, you're not gonna learn it."

For the next coming month, the Cherokee Nation says they will focus on determining which communities to expand the immersion program to.

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