One of the last monolingual Cherokee speakers is dead at 88

Mack Vann
Posted at 12:49 AM, Apr 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-25 13:56:08-04

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) -- Mack Vann, among the last members of the Cherokee Nation who spoke and understand the Cherokee language and only the Cherokee language, has died at the age of 88.

Nephew Gary Vann says his uncle died Monday in a Tahlequah, Oklahoma, hospital of pneumonia while undergoing treatment of an ongoing heart condition.

Mack Vann would great visitors with the word "osiyo," the Cherokee word for "hello." He was a descendant of Andrew Ross, brother of Cherokee Chief John Ross who led the tribe down the "Trail of Tears" from its ancestral home in Georgia to eastern Oklahoma.

He told The Associated Press in 2014 that he learned some English in school but quit after the fourth grade to help with the family farm and slowly forgot how to speak it.

A visitation will be April 25 at 5 p.m. at the New Baptist Church in Bunch. Funeral services will be April 26 at 1 p.m. at the Cedar Tree Baptist Church in Briggs.