Language has changed but racism remains

Though we are as divided as we have ever been as a country, the one thing we seemed to be able to agree on is that recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd were heinous, both reminders that the evil of racism still exists in America. We shared this “common ground” for about five minutes before the waves of protests and rioting began, and then the sudden abrupt shift in focus by one group from the murders to the reaction to the murders revealed that we had not, after all, reached some new level of mutual understanding.

Symposium seeks input on Cherokee language preservation

How do you create new fluent speakers in a language that’s no longer the common tongue of its community? 

That’s the difficult question about 75 members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians faced on Friday, Jan. 31, the second day of a two-day symposium focused on saving the Cherokee language. 

WCU student working to translate Cherokee language from native newspaper

Constance Owl’s master’s degree thesis is more than a means to a graduate degree in American history. It’s a portal to understanding, and perhaps saving, a disappearing language.

Annual Council focuses on language preservation

In the wake of a June 27 joint resolution from the three Cherokee tribes that declared the native language to be in a state of emergency, this year’s Annual Council sessions in Cherokee revealed language preservation to be a priority for tribal members of all backgrounds and political persuasions. 

The right path: Beloved Woman Ella Bird reflects on life marked by family, tradition

For the past 79 years, Ella Wachacha Bird has lived a life defined by seasons and relationships rather than months and days.

Bird, the daughter of Rily Wachacha and Ancy Walkingstick, was born in a log cabin in the remote West Buffalo area of Graham County’s Snowbird community in 1939. She was delivered by her grandmother Maggie Wachacha, a midwife at the time who would later become a clerk to Tribal Council and, like Ella, a Beloved Woman in the tribe. 

Cherokee from the heart: Beloved Woman reflects on a wandering life rooted in Cherokee language

If anyone ever had an excuse to leave her hometown and never return, it would be Myrtle Driver Johnson. 

Born May 21, 1944, to a mother who didn’t want her, Johnson had a hard upbringing in the Big Cove community of the Qualla Boundary. While her younger siblings — one brother and four sisters — lived with her mother and their father, Johnson, who never knew which of two men her father was, was sent to live with her grandparents. 

Cherokee laughter: Tribe’s newest Beloved Woman reflects on life full of love for language and community

Shirley Jackson Oswalt can still remember the first words she said in English. 

Her older siblings had prepped her before she headed off to her first day of first grade at the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Snowbird Day School in Robbinsville, and when the teacher came over to greet her, Oswalt knew her line.

Delving into the origin of Native American words

Editor’s note: This article was first published in The Smoky Mountain News in December 2003.

Tuckaseigee, Oconaluftee, Heintooga, Wayah, Cullasaja, Hiwassee, Coweeta, Stecoah, Steestachee, Skeenah, Nantahala, Aquone, Katuwah, and on and on. Our place names here in the Smokies region are graced throughout with evidence of the Cherokee culture that prevailed for over 700 years. Wouldn’t it be nice if Clingmans Dome was correctly designated as Mount Yonah (high place of the bears)?

Words, language and grammar do matter

book“In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

— George Orwell

We live in an age — the relativity of truth — in which Orwell’s adage seems as dated as monocles or top hats. Just as Darwin’s theory of evolution led to Social Darwinism, a philosophy pitting one human being against another with survival of the fittest as the supreme law for success, so Einstein’s theory of relativity changed popular philosophy and cultural mores as radically as it did the study of physics.

Hymnbook breathes life into Cherokee lyrics

fr cherokeehymnsIt’s Sunday afternoon, and a quartet of musicians — one guitarist, three vocalists — stands at the front of a small room whose rows of chairs hold about twenty people. The guitarist strums a few chords, and the voices join in a familiar tune, “Amazing Grace.” 

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