Cherokee Nation debuts two-part exhibit on Cherokee language evolution

by May 12, 2021COMMUNITY sgadugi


TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The progression, adaptation and endurance of the Cherokee language is being presented in a special exhibit debuting May 11 at two historic locations in downtown Tahlequah.

“From its development in the early 19th century to its use today, the Cherokee syllabary, like the Cherokee people, has adapted and persevered throughout time,” said Krystan Moser, manager of cultural collections and exhibits for Cherokee Nation. “Although an endangered language, the Cherokee syllabary is still an intrinsic part of Cherokee culture and community. Whether you’re a speaker or not, there is a recognition, appreciation and connection that is shared by all.”

The progression, adaptation and endurance of the Cherokee language is being presented in a special exhibit debuting at the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum and the Cherokee National Prison Museum beginning May 11. (Cherokee Nation photo)

The Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum is hosting “From Talking Leaves to Pixels: Origins of the Syllabary and Early Printing,” which narrates the introduction of the syllabary by Sequoyah in 1821 as well as the creation of the printing press typeset and publication of the Cherokee Phoenix and early Cherokee Advocate newspapers.

The story continues just one block away at the Cherokee National Prison Museum. “From Talking Leaves to Pixels: The Cherokee Syllabary in the 20th Century and Beyond” highlights efforts to adapt the syllabary to ever-changing technology, including typewriters, word processors, computers and smartphones.

“As we take time this year to celebrate the iconic contribution of Sequoyah, we also pause to reflect on the impact the syllabary has had on the Cherokee people who came before us and the future generations to come,” Moser said.  

“From Talking Leaves to Pixels” originally premiered in 2015 at the Cherokee Heritage Center and was co-curated by Roy Boney Jr. but has been adapted and incorporated into the tribe’s bicentennial celebration honoring the impact of Sequoyah’s historic literary achievement.

Originally built in 1844, the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court is Oklahoma’s oldest public building. Today, the 1,950-square-foot museum features exhibits on three historic aspects: the Cherokee National Judicial System, the Cherokee Advocate and Cherokee Phoenix newspapers, and the Cherokee language. It is located at 122 E. Keetoowah St.

The Cherokee National Prison once served as the only penitentiary building in Indian Territory from 1875 to 1901. Today, the interpretive site and museum educates visitors about law and order in Indian Territory. It is located at 124 E. Choctaw St.

For information on Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism, including museum operations, please call (877) 779-6977 or visit

­­­- Cherokee Nation release