By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Students in one of the 16 college institutions of the University of North Carolina system will now be able to use Cherokee language to fulfill their foreign language requirement. The North Carolina House passed S444 on Wednesday, July 17 which would “require the constituent institutions of the University of North Carolina to recognize the Cherokee language as a language for which a student may satisfy a foreign language course requirement for degree completion.”
The bill, introduced by North Carolina Senators Jim Davis and Andrew Brock, was passed in the Senate on May 13.
“I applaud the North Carolina General Assembly’s passage of the new state law that permits students to use the Cherokee language to satisfy a ‘foreign’ language requirement for institutions of the UNC system,” said Principal Chief Michell Hicks who thanked House Speaker Thom Tillis and President Pro Tem Phil Berger for their support. He also thanked bill sponsors Senators Davis and Brock.
“For many years now, we, in the Eastern Band, have been pursuing renewal of the Cherokee language in our schools on the Qualla Boundary and in colleges and universities in the western region,” Chief Hicks related. “We have a school in Cherokee in which our children, beginning in pre-school, can become totally immersed in learning our language and we have year-round programs on the Boundary in which children and adults can again become fluent in Cherokee. We are equally proud of programs, which we actively support, such as those at Western Carolina University where teachers of Cherokee are being educated.”
The University of North Carolina system includes the following: Appalachian State University, East Carolina University, Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, N.C. Agricultural and Technical State University, North Carolina Central University, N.C. State University, UNC – Asheville, UNC – Chapel Hill, UNC – Charlotte, UNC – Greensboro, UNC – Pembroke, UNC – Wilmington, UNC School of the Arts, Western Carolina University, and Winston –Salem State University.
“Cherokee language is not a foreign language,” said Dr. Hartwell Francis, Cherokee Language Program director at Western Carolina University. “The wording of the bill is unfortunate, but not unexpected. Most UNC System programs are changing to become ‘modern language’ programs or ‘global language’ programs. But still, because of the importance of English in the mainstream culture and in global commerce, from the mainstream perspective, all other languages are considered ‘foreign’.”
Dr. Francis related that WCU accepts Cherokee language for study at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. “Cherokee language is an important World Cultures credit for Liberal Arts Studies here at Western Carolina University. We enrolled about 60 students for our first semester Cherokee language course.”
He said that WCU currently provides Cherokee language courses to UNC – Chapel Hill students. “With the passage of NC Senate Bill 444, Western Carolina University will become the key provider of Cherokee language education to the UNC System.”
Chief Hicks concluded by saying, “It is a proud day when North Carolina again leads the way in helping strengthen our collective cultural heritage in this important way.”