Thursday, December 18, 2008

Smoke and Mirrors!

Some time ago I asked "Is Your Family Weird?" I think that many family eccentricities some of us grew up with are actually remnants of old Cherokee traditions.

On reader told about a custom in her East Tennessee family which continues to this day. Mirrors are placed where they cannot be seen, for example, high on a wall near the ceiling. Hand mirrors are kept in drawers, wrapped in cloth until needed, then immediately replaced.

Another said that mirrors could never be placed so that they could be seen when the front door was entered. In other words, someone coming in the door should not see their reflection in the mirror framed by the doorway - this was too close to seeing yourself in a coffin.

Did your family have any practices like this? How much do you remember? We'd love to hear about it. And please participate in the poll at the left of the page.

Brian Wilkes

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Another song, this time by a pro!

Talitha MacKenzie of Edinburgh, Scotland is one of our students at she included this cut on her latest CD, "Indian Summer"

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cherokee song, with lyrics

A song from 1700... repeat and learn!

Monday, November 10, 2008

What month is it? Take your pick!


We are in the lunar month of Tsiatloha, the solar month of Nvdadequa.
This Wednesday is a Flower Day, a day to increase our prayers for peace and reconciliation between humanity and the natural world.

These days are important in our old traditional calendar, but I've I've had very little interest or response to my recent posts on these matters, so I'm undecided on whether to go to the efforts of creating a calendar for 2009 as I have done for the past two years.

However, I've had response from people who want their birth dates calculated according to the old calendar. I'll begin taking orders this week, and will advise you shortly about the web page where you can learn more and place your orders. Because these take several hours to do, I will only be able to do about two dozen before Christmas, so if you want this for a holiday gift, act quickly.

You can also check Even Heaven Falls Apart for information on the web book, and 2012 Revealed for continuing reports about the Cherokee-Mayan-Aztec calendar and the prophesied changes leading up to the inauguration of the Sixth World in December, 2012.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

22 Natives From 11 States, 16 Tribes Win Elections

22 Natives From 11 States, 16 Tribes Win Elections

November 5, 2008
TULSA, Okla.—INDN's List made history Tuesday when 22 American Indian candidates from 11 states and 16 tribes won their state and local elections, including Denise Juneau (Three Affiliated Tribes) who is the first American Indian woman elected to statewide office in Montana, and only the third tribal member ever elected statewide.

Juneau is the Superintendent of Public Instruction-Elect in Montana, winning 50.74 percent of the vote. Juneau and her staff attended INDN Campaign Camp in 2007, where she was trained on all aspects of campaigning. Throughout the campaign, Juneau faced down anti-Indian rhetoric and was the first Indian woman to run statewide and face anti-Indian scorn.

With the results on Nov. 4, INDN's List has 23 candidates who won this cycle, with Bruce Curnutt (Choctaw) overwhelmingly winning his Sheriff's race in the Oklahoma runoff election in August.

"This is not just an historic year for America, but for Indian Country as we elected more tribal members to state and local office than ever before," said Kalyn Free (Choctaw), president of INDN's List. "In 2006, we elected 20 American Indians, and in 2008 we elected 23. Because of our efforts at INDN's List, tribal members are engaged at all levels of government in an unprecedented manner. To shape history, you have to be willing to make it."

In the South Dakota Legislature, two Campaign Camp alumni, Kevin Killer and Ed Iron Cloud III, won both seats in District 27, gaining Democratic seats there. They both attended INDN Campaign Camp 2007, and they are both enrolled members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

In Pennsylvania, Barbara McIlvaine Smith (Sac & Fox) won after being targeted by Republicans. She won the seat narrowly in 2006, when INDN's List first endorsed her, and flipped control of the Pennsylvania Legislature to the Democrats. Last night, she was victorious again.

Todd Gloria (Tlingit-Haida) won his San Diego City Council race at age 30, becoming the youngest member on the council and giving Democrats a 5-3 advantage.

With winners in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming, and 23 out of 37 endorsed candidates winning, INDN's List has an impressive 69 percent total win rate.
By assisting American Indians with achieving elected office, INDN's List is ensuring that issues that affect Indian Country are heard in state legislatures, city halls, and county jails and courthouses across the country.

"It was a bittersweet evening as not all of our candidates were successful," Free said. "We have tremendous respect for our first-time INDN candidates who challenged Republican incumbents but came up short.

"Our hearts are particularly heavy as we lost two excellent advocates for Indian Country, with the losses of Rep. Scott BigHorse in Oklahoma and Rep. Don Barlow in Washington. They will be deeply missed in their state's legislative chambers. Scott and Don have been champions of progressive causes and outstanding role models and leaders for all of Indian Country.
Unfortunately, they were attacked and defeated for being just that. If they stand again, INDN's List will proudly stand with them."

Of the INDN's List winning candidates, six are women, 11 are first-time office holders, two are upsets and several attended INDN training.

Courtney Ruark is political director of INDN'S List, a nonprofit that recruits and trains Democratic Native American political candidates.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Native American License Plates


It's Native American Heritage Month, and today in our state capital of Frankfort, KY, a new personalized license plate was unveiled:
There's also a slogan "Native Americans share our grandparents stories with our children." County clerks around Kentucky are taking orders for these now. When there are 900 orders, they'll go into production.

I'm proud not only because there is finally some recognition of a Indian presence in what was once one of the most a densely populated areas of ancient North America, but also because of the artist.

Jannette Parent of Princeton, KY is a Cherokee descendant, and has been one of my most diligent language students for almost four years. She incorporates the language into her artwork as well. In fact, if you want to congratulate Jannette, just leave a comment on this blog; she'll see it.

Just a question: does your state have a Native American license plate option? Let me hear from you! Leave a comment.

Brian Wilkes

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Last Fluent Mandan Speaker Turns 77

Twin Buttes, North Dakota --

Edwin Benson of the Fort Berthold Reservation is believed to be last person to speak the Mandan language fluently.

Recently turning 77, he has cut back his hours at the Twin Buttes school, where he has taught the language from the past 16 years, from full time to part time.

“Grandpa” Benson and his helpers work to document as much of the language as they can. He marks the steep decline of Mandan language use to two incidents: the relocation the Mandan, Arikara and Hidatsa communities in the 1950’s to allow construction of Garrison Dam, and the prohibition against speaking Mandan in the classroom.

My cousins and friends, there are at least 20 North American languages spoken fluently by ten people or less. Cherokee is in a better position because of the sheer number of Cherokee people, but the fluent speakers are increasingly elderly.

You can be part of the solution, and preserve our language by enrolling today.

- Brian Wilkes

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Cherokee Testing, Browser Wars, and Is Your Family Weird?


Joyce Rheal of Illinois is the second student to pass Test #2. Congratulations!


Earlier this week, Firefox released an update for their browser. After I downloaded it, I noticed that Firefox could no longer see the Cherokee font or the audio controller in either the free pages or the course material. However, Internet Explorer works just fine.

If you encounter a problem after updating your Firefox, just switch to Internet Explorer, which probably came installed on your computer. If it didn’t, don’t worry, it’s a free download.


Getting back to our game, Is Your Family Weird?

I received a few responses, but I was really looking for any memories of “strange” customs dealing with [1] doorways, [2] mirrors, [3] potted plants, and [4] fruit bowls. I’m gathering few threads together, don’t want to suggest anything.

Just leave your comments where it says "comments."


-Brian Wilkes
The Fastest and Easiest Way to Lean the Cherokee Language

Cherokee Calendar, Birthdate Analysis Available Soon

A few weeks ago, I mentioned to the mailing list that I might not produce a 2009 Cherokee Calendar unless there was some response. Most of the response was, “I didn’t know a calendar was available.”

Fair enough. Creating the Calendar is many hours of work, but I’m willing to do it again because this is a part of our traditional heritage that’s fading fast.

For the past year now, I have been making a service available to healing professionals. According to the oral traditions, one of the main purposes of the calendar was to schedule community ceremonies to maintain the balance between heaven and earth; in other words, between the natural cycle and the course of human events. Another was to analyze a person’s future prospects based on their birth date. This wasn’t seen as ‘fortune telling,” but rather as looking to which of the 260 archetypal personalities or “roles” the person had most likely inherited. Since each of these is understood to have emotional and physical strengths and weaknesses, it was considered an important tool for health care.

I have provided analyses to healers over the past year, which proved amazingly accurate and were most helpful in dealer with their clients. I make no medical claims, this is what they tell me.

Because of the stigma attached to horoscopes and “Indian Tarot Cards,” I had not planned to go public with this service, but rather to work primarily with professional caregivers.

I’ve been getting requests for this, and so I’m going to open it up to the people on my lists for a brief time as a trial. Producing each of these reports, run 12 , 20 and even 30 pages in length, is very time consuming for me. My normal hourly rate would put it out of the range of many people. So I’m going to make it a reduced, fixed price of $52.

You’ll receive the report as a fully-illustrated PDF file, which you can print and bind.

If you want to be put on the advance notification list (I can only do a few dozen of these before Christmas), please contact me at

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cherokee Hair Styles

Just had a question from a student about the Cherokee language.

Let me be clear in case I wasn’t clear enough before: when you enroll in Speak, I’m available if you have a problem. I want this experience to be as two-way and interactive for you as possible; as they used to say, “The next best thing to being there.”

On the sheets of vocabulary “stickers” I give you as a gift just for coming onto the mailing list, one of the words is “bow.” He wondered if this meant an archery bow, or a ribbon bow. It hadn’t occurred to me that this word has a double meaning in English. The word on the vocabulary sheet means only an archery bow. I’ll make that clear in the audio/video I’m doing for the free members.

He also had a question about hair. He wants to donate his long hair to Locks Of Love, a charity that makes wigs for children who lose their hair from chemotherapy, allopecia, or other medical conditions. He has also heard that some nations place a great value on the length of a man’s hair.

Historically, Cherokee men have worn their hair a little on the short side, ranging from a pudding bowl – Amish looking cut, to shaved or plucked with a single hair lock. Short hair makes good sense in dense forests full of parasites. Out traditional hairstyles are still found in the Amazon.
The long, full hair style so popular today was actually borrowed from European settlers, who considered shaved or plucked scalps to look too “savage.” It also has an historic pedigree, and is also a legitimate alternative. Older men might wear it to show off their gray and white hair, and thereby their status as an elder.

Not only would there be no prohibition against a Cherokee man cutting his hair, we would salute that man for sacrificing a part of himself to help a sick child.

By the way, the word for the old Cherokee scalp lock is gidla. Good luck finding that in any Cherokee dictionary!

-Brian Wilkes
Keep the Culture Alive! Enroll Now!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Financial Incentive to Study Cherokee

Osiyo, ginali!


More new stuff coming this week using the new dolphin-squeal-proof audio approach. I’ve uploaded audios for the first page of Lesson 3’s list of birds. If you don’t know your tsigilili from your tsaqualode, now’s the time!



Whether or not Congress passes the controversial financial bailout bill, many of you have reported to me that finances are tight right now. I certainly understand, and I’m in the same boat with you. That’s why I’ve announced that until further notice, spouses fly free!

Okay, that’s an old airline commercial slogan. But if you’re a Speak Cherokee student, one family member can be included on your enrollment. This entitles them to take the tests, have their pronunciation corrected, interact with the other students (I’ll set up a student forum when we get 50 enrolled) , and earn a certificate of completion at the end of the course.

Just advise me by email, with the name of the family member you want to include.


Beyond that, I’m been thinking of how you can actually make some money. What if I set up an affiliate program? If someone signs up for Speak Cherokee through your affiliate link, which you can set up on a web page, social site like MySpace, or your own blog, you get money. I can either set it up as a lump sum for each new student, or as a smaller amount you will received every month that student is enrolled. It means I make less for each student, but I’m really not planning to retire on the income from teaching Cherokee. If you have any thoughts on this, please reply by email with the word “Affiliate” in the subject line.


It’s almost October, and we’ll soon enter both the traditional new year (Firepit Year) and the annual ethnic obstacle course I call “The Moon of Paper-Feather Headdresses.” It’s the month in which elementary school students make Indian stuff out of construction paper, and learn about the good Indians who helped the Pilgrims. They start of course with Columbus Day, when Europeans began the conquest.

During this time, the news media suddenly remembers we exist, and seems amazed afresh each year as they realize that we still keep out languages and traditions as best we can.

If you’re one of the people who is normally contacted by the news media in your area at this time, what a great chance to lay a little Tsalagi on them! As long as we still speak out language, we are still a distinct people and culture.

Speak Cherokee every day, and teach your children!

--- Brian

Friday, September 26, 2008

Chickadee Receptionist

An old Cherokee saying is that if a chickadee looks at you upside-down, tilting his head to the side until it looks like he's standing on his head, that's a sign that a visitor is on the way to see you.

Better put some coffee on!

The word for chickadee is tsigilili, which sounds like 'jee-gih-LEE-lee."

To learn the names of birds and other points of the language and culture not often dealt with in books, enroll in our online classes at!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Family Special - Two for One!

For a limited time, two family members can enroll in our online language course for the price of one. Both students can submits tests, and both will earn the certificate of completion.
Share the gift of Cherokee language with your family! REGISTER NOW

Monday, September 8, 2008

Response to "Is Your Family Weird?"

Q: What about the reference to a child as pumpkin? Or the learned eating behavior of eating fat (my first memory as a toddler) that is ONLY Native as far as I know...

A: "Pumpkin" and "Peanut" appear to be the most common pet names for children, and neither is terribly Native. In France, it's "Cabbage."

Intentionally eating fat on meat, especially an expensive cut of meat like prime rib, is likewise not so much Native American as northern. It's common among Scandinavians, Russians, Germans, and Canadians. Animals store toxins in their fat for later excretion. Ironically, that's why the fat sometimes tastes so good.

Now, if you're talking about chowing down on a can of lard, that's another matter.


DNA Test to Show Percentage Native American Ancestry

Q: Do you know of a Native place that does DNA analysis that shows the percentage of Native American in a person?

A: The largest Native American owned and operated DNA testing firm is DNA Testing Inc out of Scottsdale, AZ

What you're looking for is called an admixture test. Theirs is call Whole DNA. Mention my name in the "referred by" space, and you'll get a discount.

- Brian Wilkes

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Osiyo, Tsunali! Hello, Friends!

I’ve been working on more pages of content for – pronouncers for the three pages of labels, so you can begin labelling things around your home and reminding yourself to speak the Cherokee names OUT LOUD.


We have almost 325 people on the mailing list, but not even ten percent have actually enrolled for the classes. I know the economy is bad, and money is tight, so I’ve been considering what I can offer as an incentive.

Here it is: from now until the end of the year, enrolled students get a ‘two-for-one’ deal. If another family member wants to study, their tests and pronunciation will be corrected, just as if they were a separate student. When the tenth test is completed, you will both get the certificate of completion. Another advantage, you now have someone else in the house who can be your study partner. Finding someone to speak Cherokee with gives you an advantage in retaining the material.


Remember to bookmark the new blog at


Brian Wilkes

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Was Your Family WEIRD?

Among mixed bloods, old traditions were often passed down as family quirks and eccentricities. As a kid, you weren’t told this was a Cherokee or other Indian tradition, so you probably just thought it meant your particular family was weird, and possibly doing it to make your life miserable and be un-cool in front of your friends.

Today’s question: Did your family have any beliefs or practices concerning what should be visible or what should not be visible upon entering the doorway of a house? This may have been explained simply as ‘good luck’ or ‘bad luck.’

Give it some thought, and let me know. I may get back to you for details.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Venus Emerges

Ko’iga Unadodaquinvi, Dulisdi igagvyi, ale Iga-Noquisequa.

Hello! Today is Monday, September 1, and Day of the Big Star, a.k.a. Rabbit, a.k.a. Venus.

It’s significant that this is a ‘Rabbit-Star’ Day, today Venus arises from its hiding place of invisibility to become the Evening Star. In the old Cherokee Calendar, the Deer and Rabbit stand on one side of the River, while the Wolf stands on the other side, ready to challenge or escort those who cross.

There are several significant or at least ironic days coming up this month, and there is a time of great danger as well.

The current Year of the Flint Knife ends on October 5, with a new Year of the Firepit beginning October 6. In this last month or so of the Flint Knife, there is increasing danger of a new conflict starting. We also see danger from natural disaster, with Hurricane Gustav as just one example.

There are currently two blogs running, which today are carrying this same message. The Speak Cherokee blog concentrates on learning the language, while 2012 Revealed deals with the Cherokee Calendar, indigenous prophecies, and preparations for enduring the “Days of Darkness” predicted before the dawn of the Sixth World in December, 2012.

I recommend subscribing to the one that most interest you. I’m trying to keep the technology as simple as possible for fast download.

Have a wonderful and safe Labor Day with your families. If you’re old enough, explain to them that we once had something called labor unions in this country, that’s why a day devoted to picnics, car shows and appliance sales is called Labor Day.


Brian Wilkes

Friday, August 29, 2008

No Cherokee Calendar for 2009


Ko’iga Tsunagilosdi, Galoni tali-sgohi-sonela.
Today is Friday, August 29.

Since the spring, when I took the 2008 Cherokee Calendar off the market and offered free copies to my language students, I have been saying that the new edition would be available in September. It’s almost September, and the low response of the last two years has forced me to change that assessment. It just doesn’t seem that very many people are interested in the old ceremonial calendar. It’s several layers of complicated math and symbolism, and more than a little off-putting at first glance.

What I’m thinking of doing instead is:
[a] offering individual life analysis based on the calendar.
[b] devoting more time completing the online book, Even Heaven Falls Apart,
[c] creating a calendar without deep explanation to both Even Heaven Falls Apart members and life analysis clients.

I’m sorry, but, as any daykeeper can tell you, there are only so many hours in a day. Since there has been little interest in this aspect of Cherokee culture and our connection to our Meso-American roots, I need to focus on things that are better received.

The comment board is open, let me know what you think.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Dolphins are Dead



If you’re one of the few who have noticed that the audios in the course material have started sounded like a squeaking, squealing dolphin...

I found a software program that let me convert the audios from Flash back into mp3, and I’m just using a simple embed technique. You should have wonderful, clear sound on any browser.

The downside is that the audios no longer “stream” from the server, but actually download to your computer before they are played. That means if you’re still on dial-up, there maybe a delay before an audio plays. But since most of the audios are just a few words, a few seconds in length, that should be much of the problem.

So if you’re one of those who have been waiting for this technical glitch to be resolved before signing up for the course, it’s fixed! You can go here to begin the enrollment process.


For those of you in West Kentucky, we’ll begin another five-week live course in Marion, Kentucky in late September. Details soon.


PLEASE don’t ask me for your name in Cherokee. I don’t give names. If you were given a name in ceremony, and only told the English version, go back to that elder and ask him or her for the Cherokee version. More on naming protocol later.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Welcome to the new blog!

Osiyo! Tsilugi!

Welcome to the new blog for the Speak Cherokee mailing list. This will let me post items that are more involved, with graphics and other features, without jamming your e-mail services with HTML e-mails that may be dumped by various filters.

From now on, the mailing list will be used mainly to let you know when something new has been posted here on the blog.

First of all, welcome to our subscribers in Cyprus, Germany, Spain, England, Scotland, Canada, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Australia and Papua New Guinea, as well as those of you in the armed forces. If I missed your country, please let me know.