By JONAH LOSSIAH
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) will be inviting three language experts to come in to observe the current state of Cherokee language learning on the Qualla Boundary.
The EBCI Education department is fronting the efforts. This week-long project is being used to find the most effective methods for moving forward in terms of language preservation.
James Bradley, EBCI Secretary of Education, said the chosen experts would be spending Jan. 27-29 collecting what they need.
“They’re going to come in and visit all the programs and just observe and talk to the leaders of each program. For curriculum and development at KPEP, they’ll spend time with them to look at what the resources are. Look at the types of funding and how much funding each program’s getting. And just kind of help us catalog all that stuff,” said Bradley.
Following this, they will be holding a meeting on Thursday, Jan. 30 to discuss their findings and suggestions for progressing and improving. On Friday, Jan. 31, there will be a similar meeting that will be open to ‘community stakeholders,’ and it is planned to be live-streamed through EBCI Communications.
Bradley says there been a lot of conversation of late and that it’s time to make some decisions. He believes that once they have input from the language symposium, they will be able to move forward with a focused plan.
“The Chief and I met with the elders and the speakers about a month ago, maybe a little longer, just to say, ‘what is our goal with language? Can we produce fluent speakers.’ The overwhelming response was yes we can. Ok, so why is that not happening with everything that we’re doing right now?”
Bradley has been working directly with Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed to find the best plan moving forward. Chief Sneed said there isn’t a question of support, and the community needs to focus on the best way of going about allocating resources.
“I, the Vice Chief, members of Council, we are 100 percent in full support of doing whatever is necessary to preserve and proliferate our language. That’s a given. What is imperative is that we must create a strategic plan. What’s more important than acting is acting in a manner that is going to ensure long term success,” said Chief Sneed.
Bradley said that another aspect moving forward would be the idea of measurable results.
“What we want to do is have this assessment done with some recommendations, and then out of that, the language partners will come up with a plan for how to implement this. And the Chief would like a 30-60-90 day jump-off plan. And then like a 1 year-3 year-5 year goal. Measurable goals. So that we can we see where we’re investing the money and what resources we’re providing and what effect that’s having,” said Bradley.
On Jan. 13, Tribal Council held a work session on the subject of a language symposium and a proposed resolution. However, because of technical difficulties, nothing from the work session was recorded.
“The technical issue we discovered that morning was that the system controller had been affected by the storms and power issues from the weekend. We were unable to power it on initially, but had resolved the issue later that afternoon,” said EBCI Director of Communications Chris McCoy.
The Cherokee One Feather also reached out to Tribal Council Chairman Adam Wachacha for a statement on the meeting and the lack of recording, but there was no response.
Chief Sneed says there are several purposes of this symposium. First, he is hopeful that the experts will point out things they are doing well and can build on. Along with that, he hopes that with their varying backgrounds, several new solutions can recommended.
“My other hope is that we have a great deal of participation from the community. Where people are actually sharing their ideas…bring solutions, don’t bring criticisms. Bring solutions, bring your ideas, let’s be creative,” said Chief Sneed.
Bradley said that he excited to see what is learned and discussed over the week. He said the goal is to take what is presented and bring a plan in resolution form to the March Tribal Council session.
The following is the list of the three experts that are coming:
- Benjamin Elliot Frey, assistant professor of American Studies at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, EBCI tribal member, Bachelor of Arts degree from UNC – Chapel Hill, Master of Arts degree and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin – Madison
- Sheri J. Tatsch, Indigenous Consulting Services of Orangevale, Calif.; Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California, Davis
- Wyman Kirk, lecturers-instructor at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla.; independent contract for Cherokee Nation; Bachelor of Arts degree from Northeastern State University; Master of Arts degree and A.B.D. from Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind.