The Chief of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma, George Wickliffe, is a certified Cherokee language instructor and making sure that the Keetoowah Cherokee language survives is a priority for him.
“It is clear that the Keetoowah Cherokee language is being lost and it is important to save it, said Wickliffe. The tribe is currently outlining plans for teaching their language. The Keetoowah Cherokee language will be taught with traditional sounds as it is spoken in the traditional areas of the UKB’s nine districts.
The Chief feels that it is important to teach babies how to speak Cherokee as their first language and he has some ideas on how to make this happen. “One way to achieve this is by providing bi-lingual babysitting services to mothers who are serious about their babies learning Cherokee as their first language. The elders who speak Cherokee could be used to teach the babies. These elders would receive hourly wages, plus, other Cherokee speakers regardless of age could be employed to teach the babies. By doing this, there would not be a need for fancy daycare centers, just a good place for Cherokee babies to be cared for and taught the Cherokee language by fluent Cherokee speakers. In order to fix the problem of losing our language, we must start by teaching our language where it will be most effective,” said Wickliffe.
The UKB will have a Cherokee language program for adults also that will be offered at the various nine districts taught by fluent Cherokee speakers. The Keetoowah Cherokee language curriculum will be made available at public schools where all who want to learn the language will have the opportunity to learn to SEE, SAY, and WRITE Cherokee. The UKB has an enhanced plan to save their language that includes many traditional fluent Cherokee speakers participating from throughout the nine districts or the UKB. The class schedule will be released soon. For more information, or to schedule the classes in your community, call (918) 431-1808.