Kituwah Preservation & Education Program [KPEP] is taking measures
to preserve the ancient language of the Eastern Band of Cherokee
Indians, with colorful children's books written in the native Cherokee
language and illustrated by local artists.
By commissioning artists throughout the
region to illustrate the children's books, KPEP hopes to keep the
near-extinct language alive by catching the interest of Cherokee
youth at an early age and introducing them to their native tongue.
"Our language is kind of dying out, so
this is the biggest and most important step we could take," said
KPEP Electronic Media Coordinator Alexandro Cruz. The Kituwah academy
is currently teaching the Cherokee language as a primary language
to first grade children. There are now approximately 60 students
in the language revitalization program.
help teach the young students the Cherokee language, KPEP members
concluded that it would be a good idea to publish children's books
with the native language bound within each page. Moreover, all of
the books contain traditional Cherokee stories handed down throughout
the generations. The length and the subject matter of the books
will grow along with the age of readers, said Cruz.
Though the stories were wrought in ages
past, each with its own moral, they are presented in a modern manner-visually
reflecting current culture and technology.
"A lot of people have the concept that
we live in teepees and that kind of stuff, like that's how we are.
That's a fictitious type of thing," said Cruz. "We want the kids
to relate to the modern era. They aren't growing up as kids were
50 or 60 years ago," he said.
the new, retelling the old
When KPEP members began
the process of publishing the books two years ago, they sought out
local talent to help layout and illustrate the books. Right now
KPEP currently has five books being illustrated, with an artist
assigned to each book, which ranges from 12-40 pages, depending
on the reading level. The artists are given a storyline, with page
layouts directing them on what point of view should be used.
Among the illustrators are Amberly Rogers
and Tony Mingacci, both of Franklin. When the two artists are not
penciling pages for the books, they are inking the skin canvases
of their customers at Estelle Tattoo Parlor
"It's a real honor that they chose me
to help preserve their language for their children," said Rogers.
"I get to take the stories they give me, bring them to life and
make them exciting for children to see and learn from."
Echoing Rogers' appreciation for KPEP's
language preservation efforts, Mingacci remarked on the subtle teachings
he has encountered in the book he is working on.
called The Beast'," said Mingacci, pointing to a draft of
one of his drawings of two young men attempting to subdue a snake.
"It's pretty much about these boys finding their bravery. They encounter
[the snake] and have to figure out how to get it away from them."
Without giving too much of the story away,
Mingacci noted that it teaches children to be resourceful, to take
care of others and the importance of responsibility. He chose to
compose the art for the book with pencils and markers. The choice,
as he described, rendered a sense of organic simplicity to the work.
The book I am working on now is called
The Elder Turtle'," said Rogers. "It's about a turtle that
walks around and observes nature. He is the oldest turtle and knows
a lot of things, however he is going around and telling you why
these things are important and why they're beautiful." The moral
of the story, Rogers said, was to be grateful for nature.
Unlike her counterpart who does all of
his work by hand, Rogers drafts her works in pencil, then scans
it digitally, and paints it in a photoshop program. "Doing this
digitally allows me to achieve more vibrant colors," she said. "Because
this story is about nature, and intended for younger children, I
thought bright colors would work best."
far this has been really enjoyable," concluded Rogers, in sync with
Mingacci. "These stories have a lot of history drawing it
for the new generation is definitely an honor." Both stories are
on the threshold of completion, Rogers said, at which point they
will begin work on another story. According to Cruz, once all art
for the books is submitted, it will take 6-8 weeks for the works
to be published.
The books will not only be distributed
throughout the Cherokee Indian reservation, but they will also be
distributed throughout North America, Cruz explained. "I feel like
it means a lot to us for the main reason that we're creating and
generating more reading material for the future of our Cherokee
speakers and the survival of our Cherokee language," he concluded.
"So it's a very important task that we must meet and excel in."
There is still need for artists or other
people with talent, said Cruz.
For more information about the Language
Immersion program of the Kituwah Preservation & Education Program,
visit their website