Bringing Cherokee Language studies into the 21st Century

by Mar 26, 2010NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments

EBCI and CN Immersion Classrooms will soon be able to video chat



The tech team, comprised of members of the Cherokee, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and Apple, Inc. demonstrated the technology, that will enable immersions students from the EBCI to video chat with students from the Cherokee Nation, to Principal Chief Michell Hicks on Thursday, March 18. (Photo courtesy of Renissa Walker/KPEP)

For the past two years, the EBCI Kituwah Preservation & Education Program has been working towards bringing the Cherokee language into the 21st century.  During the Joint Council held with the Cherokee Nation (CN) two years ago, a Memorandum of Agreement was signed charging both Tribes to work together on language revitalization initiatives.  One of those initiatives was to connect the two Tribe’s total-immersion classrooms via internet, thereby creating a small community of the youngest Cherokee speakers of both tribes.

Working closely with Jeff Edwards and Roy Boney with CN’s Education Department, along with two Apple representatives, the two tribes immersion classrooms will be connected and able to video chat within the next month. 

One of the many goals of this venture is to create a cyber-environment for the immersion children of CN and the EBCI.  By both tribes using Apple equipment, the students are able to chat, blog, email, create Wiki’s, and Facebook together-all in the Cherokee syllabary- which allows students to have a 21st century-Cherokee experience. 

Research has shown, as well as observations, that in order to maintain a high student interest level, their experiences must be relevant and current.  Because of the limited Cherokee-only resources, this is difficult for both tribes. 

Now, these young Cherokee students will be able to share their immersion experiences, knowledge, and form a small community using technology.  This joint venture will enable the two programs to work more closely together and share resources.  CN’s students already have their own version of Facebook that only they can access.  The EBCI, immersion students will have a similar environment and all of the information and access is highly secure.

This past year, Joseph Erb, Jeff Edwards and Roy Boney of CN, worked closely with Apple, Inc. to create a silicone cover that features the Cherokee syllabary.  This gave their immersion students, who do not learn phonetics, the ability to type in the syllabary.  The EBCI immersion students have already started the process of getting familiar with the syllabary keyboard cover. 

New Kituwah staff and students are excited about the project and have already received training on the system.  While iChatting and other features on the Apple systems may not be a new concept – using it as a resource for saving the language is. 

KPEP officials stated, “On behalf of KPEP staff and our students, thanks to our tech team members, Alex Cruz, EBCI-Kituwah Preservation and Education Program – Electronic Media Coordinator; Jeff Edwards, CN-Education Services – Cultural Specialist; Roy Boney, CN-Education Services – Curriculum Specialist; and two Apple Inc. representatives.”

Renissa is the manager of the EBCI Kituwah Preservation & Education Program.