Speakers Council addresses language partners and core values

by Nov 15, 2021NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments



One Feather Staff


The Cherokee Speakers Council met Friday, Nov. 5 in the Tribal Council chambers to hold a televised open session.

The first guest to the meeting was Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed to discuss the Cherokee Core Values. The Chief read through each of these and shared his piece to the Council.

“What I’ve seen is we’ve kind of lost our way. I guess I’m here this morning seeking your guidance and seeking your help. Because who we are as a people is in here and you all. And we’re losing you. One by one, we’re losing you. But I’m very hopeful,” said Chief Sneed.

“After I had my conversation with Bo Taylor, and we recorded that, and it was a really good interview. Then I talked to Tom Belt, and he shared with me these principals from the Kituwah Society. I started reading through these and this thing happened. Like it clicked in my mind and my heart and my spirit why our language matters. You can’t separate our values and who we are as a people from the language … the two are interconnected. But without the values, we have nothing to anchor us. We’re just wondering aimlessly.”

The Principal Chief’s time at the podium turned emotional and he and the Speakers Council shared sentiments for over 30 minutes.

“This is the one right here: ‘treat each other’s existence as being sacred or important.’ I want to publicly apologize and ask forgiveness for not doing that with everyone. We can’t be selective on who we bestow honor upon. We should bestow honor upon everyone. Because all of us are created in the image of God. And I want to publicly say I am sorry for not always doing that. And I’m sorry for going to anger when things don’t go the way I think they should go. Who am I?”

Beloved Woman Myrtle Driver Johnson showed her support for the Chief and thanked him for his words. Chief Sneed reiterated that the Core Values will play an essential role moving forward and that they are planning to create materials to guide this vision.

Following the Chief, Bo Taylor took time to speak for the current Cherokee Adult Language Learners (CALL) to the Speakers Council. Each member of the program came up to introduce themselves to the Council.

“It is a little nerve-racking to come before you speakers. We hold you in such high esteem. We always want to make you proud. I brought my crew with me today, and I’m real proud of them. I’ve only had them for less than a month, and they know ‘squisda’ (a lot) … and we’re going to do it. I’m committed. I’m committed to what I’m doing and why I’m here,” said Taylor.

Next up to the podium was Juanita Wilson to speak on a collaboration project to pool the Tribe’s language resources together.

“There’s a lot going on for Cherokee language that’s fragmented. We’re not doing stuff together. We have to come together to start making those connections to one another … this comes from the 2020 language symposium where we feel like we got a good bit of feedback from the speakers, from the community members that were there, and the programs that teach the language,” said Wilson

Speakers Council Member Laura Pinnix said that there needs to be more communication with the Speakers Council on this issue.

“We feel like we’re left out, to be honest with you. And we shouldn’t feel left out. Does that make sense? We got more kids than anybody. We’re teachers of more people than anybody here on the Qualla Boundary,” said Laura Pinnix

“It’s our regret that anyone feels left out. That’s not the intent at all the hardest thing about language, in my experience, has been to get everyone together in a way where everyone agrees how you do it. And I think all the programs out there feel the same way as you do, including ones that we’ve been part of,” said Wilson.

Honorary EBCI member Hartwell Francis is part of this project as well, and he offered more background to the Council.

“It’s not that we want to leave people out, it’s that we’re not doing well, the EBCI internally. So, the first thing that we felt that we needed to do, based on the symposium that we all shared together in 2020, was to make sure that EBCI departments do not feel left out as the EBCI cooperation moved forward with developing a language group,” said Francis.

Pinnix insisted that the Speakers Council have a seat at the table in future discussions. Francis offered there hasn’t been a group formed at this time, so those meetings have not occurred on a large scale yet. He and Wilson said that the Council will be involved moving forward.

Justin French, manager of EBCI facility management, was the final guest of the meeting. He was there because he had received several calls concerning the syllabary on the welcome sign along Newfound Gap Rd.

The Cherokee word for ‘boundary’ can be mispronounced to say a violent crime. Because of these concerns, French said that they removed the syllabary until they could meet with the Speakers Council for their guidance.

The Council said that the word is not wrong, but that it simply comes down to the inflection of the word. After reviewing the sign, they decided that the only thing that needed to be changed was the phrasing of ‘reservation’ should be adapted to ‘boundary’. It was discussed that Cherokee owns their land, and therefore it is not a reservation. French said that they would make that change immediately.

The Cherokee Speakers Council was called to order with Chairperson Roger Smoker; Vice Chair Wiggins Blackfox; Treasurer Elnora Nations; Secretary Marie Junaluska; Scribe Michelle Wolfe Long; Administrator Bo Lossiah; Language Administrator Garfield Long; and Council members Myrtle Driver Johnson, Laura Pinnix, Leroy Little John, Maddy Wildcatt, Lucille Lossiah, Anne Walkingstick, Charlie Bigwitch, JC Wachacha, and Mose Oocumma all in attendance and around the horseshoe.

The Cherokee Speakers Council meets monthly, but the next meeting is to be determined. These sessions are open to the public.