Principal Chief Chuck
Hoskin Jr. visits with fluent Cherokee speakers at the Kituwah
celebration in July at the Kituwah Mound near Cherokee, North
Carolina. The Cherokee Nation and Eastern Band of Cherokee
Indians joined at the Kituwah Mound to preserve the Cherokee
language, history and culture. COURTESY
CHEROKEE, N.C. The Cherokee Nation and Eastern Band of Cherokee
Indians joined as sister tribes at the Kituwah Mound near Cherokee
recently to protect and preserve the Cherokee language, history
With the language in a state of emergency, the tribes signed a
memorandum of agreement to develop collaborative projects and opportunities
to support and increase the language. The tribes agreed to share
resources, also working with Western Carolina University on teacher
curriculum and training.
The signing was held during the EBCI's "Kituwah Celebration," when
the tribes come together and celebrate the Kituwah Mound, the mother
town where Cherokees began in the southeast.
"There is so much our tribes are doing, and doing well in terms
of business, health care, education and housing, but that is not
enough if we lose what it means to be Cherokee. If we lose our lifeways,
our culture and our precious language around which we all exist,
we will have lost what makes us unique," Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin
Jr. said. "The only people who can save the Cherokee language are
the Cherokee people, and we are committed to that. Together, we
are making sure the Cherokee language is a vital part of lives of
the Cherokee people for generations to come."
According to the MOA, the tribes will share a strategic plan and
hold quarterly meetings either in person or virtually and prepare
annual reports for the "Teach What You Know, Share What You Learn"
initiative. There will also be a seven-member delegation who will
oversee the language, history and cultural interests.
"The issue at hand is not just preservation but proliferation.
With the leadership of Chief Hoskin, myself and my team here and
certainly the UKB, we want to see the language once again become
common and not something that is just with the older generations,"
EBCI Principal Chief Richard Sneed said. "The efforts of all three
tribes demonstrate that we recognize this is part of our identity,
and when that is lost we've lost everything. So, this is extremely
The CN estimates it has about 2,000 fluent Cherokee speakers, and
the EBCI estimates it has about 200.
"This is really important that the Eastern Band as well as the
Cherokee Nation are preserving their language as well as their culture
and it's really an honor for Western Carolina University to be a
part of that and be a partner with both tribes," WCU Chancellor
Kelli R. Brown said.
WCU offers a Cherokee studies minor, Cherokee language courses
and faculty work on archeology.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, each tribe put in place specific
measures to ensure Cherokee speakers were given priority for vaccinations.
The CN's Durbin Feeling Language Center is also under construction
in Tahlequah and will house Cherokee immersion language students,
the tribe's translation department and Cherokee Language Master
Apprentice Program students all under one roof. The CN is also developing
a Cherokee speaker's village including efficiency homes for speakers.
In 2019, the Durbin Feeling Language Preservation Act provided
an additional $16 million into language efforts, which was the largest
language investment in CN history.