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Great Cherokee Nation Symposium Was Held in Mid April 2011

Northeastern State University’s Annual 39th Cherokee Nation Symposium ran from April 11th – 16th, which was, as always, free to the public thanks to financial support from the Oklahoma Humanities Council, Oklahoma Arts Council, Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism, Muscogee Creek Nation Casino, Proctor and Gamble and numerous private donors.

Native speaking Cherokee linguist and University of Oklahoma Cherokee language Instructor Durbin Feeling (who has compiled various Cherokee pedagogical materials and made the most widely consulted Cherokee-English Dictionary (with Reference Grammar) in collaboration with Southern Methodist University William Pulte) gave a speech in Cherokee. NSU Cherokee language teacher Harry Oosahwee – who was recently featured in the American Experience PBS documentary “We Shall Remain: Cherokee Language” – gave the audience a taste of how extensive Cherokee dialect variation can be at Oosahwee’s Cherokee Language Forum. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Professor of Southern Culture Theda Purdue, who writes copiously on the role of Cherokee (esp. Cherokee women) in history, and the Cherokee Syllabary, was also in attendance.

NSU English Professor Brad Montgomery-Anderson (who completed a most recent reference grammar of Oklahoma Cherokee as his dissertation – .pdf downloadable online, and is spearheading revitalization efforts), led an Indigenous Languages Documentation and Revitalization seminar with Dr. Marcellino Berardo of the University of Kansas Applied English Center.

On the 14th, Tahlequah Cherokee put on an intertribal powwow that included a full day seminar on indigenous languages and their revitalization starting at 8:30 AM called “Agreeing to agree: How Words are Linked Together”, sponsored by the Oklahoma Native Languages Association and the Oklahoma Humanities Council.

An NSU Native American Student Association junior majoring in Cherokee cultural studies, and former Miss Cherokee, Danielle Culp, wrote the following song dedicated to her mother, Ellen – a native speaker who helped her with the lyrics – and presented it at Oosahwee’s forum. The lyrics were transcribed by Tesina Jackson for The Cherokee Phoenix:

Diganetliyvsdi eliwus yinigadung
Utlanvdadehv dvgadvnelis, Tla yagwahnta
A difference I could make it
A chance would I take it, I don’t know anything
 
Tla sehno yagwadli ahan agwetilvgi
Osdaheno agwaduli yagwadvhdi
Agwadelquasdi awaduli, digadeyosdi agwaduli
But I know that I do not want to be stuck here
I want to do what is right
I want to learn, I want to teach
 
Now awanagisdi, daganagis
Tla yagwahta wigedolv
Awahtahen tla ahan yig
Agwaduli digadelquasd, awaduli jiwonisg
Sehno yaginutlvna
Sagwu’l yvganeldi
Gajitvdasdesdi aniwonihv’l
Squisdiheno yagwadvti, nowiheno atliloga
Now I have to go, I have to learn
I don’t know where I’m going
I know that this place isn’t it
I want to learn, I want to speak
Even if I fail
I’ll try once more
I’ll listen whey they speak
I have much to do, now is the time
 
Diganetliyvsdi eliwus yinigadung
Utlanvdadehv dvgadvnelis, Tla yagwahnta
A difference I could make it
A chance would I take it, I don’t know anything
 
Gawohnihisdi ulisgedv
Kalo anatvsg ulisgedv
Adahnvdo didalenihvsga
Our language is important
Those who are growing up are important
It begins in the heart
 
Now awanagisdi, daganagis
Tla yagwahta wigedolv
Awahtahen tla ahan yig
Agwaduli digadelquasd, awaduli jiwonisg
Sehno yaginutlvna
Sagwu’l yvganeldi
Gajitvdasdesdi aniwonihv’l
Squisdiheno yagwadvti, nowiheno atliloga
Now I have to go, I have to learn
I don’t know where I’m going
I know that this place isn’t it
I want to learn, I want to speak
Even if I fail
I’ll try once more
I’ll listen when they speak
I have much to do, now is the time
 
Tsalagi hehno igvyi tsigawonihv
Tsalagi hehno oni tsiwonihesdi, tsiwonihesdi
Cherokee is what she spoke first
Cherokee is what I’ll speak last

She wrote the song in only an hour, but it took twice as long to match it to music, completed with the help of her boyfriend Alex Cobb, an NSU music major. What a moving poem; a young Cherokee American’s language ideology expressed in dual-lingually. Notice how she borrowed now (now) into Cherokee from English, and don’t forget that Tsalagi is the Cherokee borrowing for the English word Cherokee (of debated etymology).

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