Monday, December 21, 2009

Appreciations for the "Speak Cherokee" Program

A respected Kentucky leader in the Native American community endorses "Speak Cherokee!"

We will also have live, in-person classes this spring in Marion, Kentucky. Details soon.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lost in Translation; Cherokee Calendar Bonus Ends Monday

Last Friday, I had the good fortune to spend a few hours with Keetoowah News editor, photographer, and language instructor Sammy Still and his wife Dama. I had last seen Sammy in 2002 during a trip to Tahlequah.

We spoke briefly on teaching the language. He mentioned that one of the problems is that for the past three decades, the field has been dominated by talented linguists, who have dissected, analyzed and re-assembled parts of the Cherokee language. This is great for another linguist, giving them the schematic diagrams for the language. This is sometimes called “classical method,” and is the way languages have been taught in schools for centuries.

But, he said, Cherokee is more complex than that. Exact word to word translations are difficult, and often imprecise. The English word automobile, “self-moving”, is translated into Cherokee with several other words depending on locality. These mean “big eyes,” “it stares back”, and “rubber touches road”. The first two translations refer to the headlights, the last to the wheels. The English concept of “self-moving” or “self-propelled” isn’t there. The meanings are also lost going from Cherokee to English.

Still said that Cherokee needs to be learned in context of the culture and community. This is known as “natural method,” because it’s the way we learn our first language as babies.

I don’t mean to belittle in any way those teachers who use the classical method. When I was planning Speak Cherokee, I thought that the new technology offered a great chance to use the natural method. Push a button, hear a word, repeat until your pronunciation sounds close. It’s why the curriculum is moving to more use of video as well as audio. It’s also why Test 2 and above require you to record your tests answers, so I can correct your pronunciation.

Since I’ll bee out of the office for a few days, I’m extending the Cherokee Calendar bonus deadline to Monday, November 2. Select any of our three paid subscriptions to the course this Sunday or Monday, and you’ll receive as a bonus the 2010 Cherokee Calendar. The Calendar is no longer available as a separate product, but only as a bonus for passing Test 3. So now through Monday, you can get one just for enrolling at

Talk to you next week!
Nvwadohiyada, Healing and peace to you.
Brian Wilkes

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mitochondrial DNA in Cherokees - Egyptian, Greek, Phoenician and Hebrew Origins?

We have always had an oral tradition that at least part of our people came by boat from a land across the waters to the East. Modern science suggests those stories told by the Elders are more than fairy tales.


Dr. Yates can also advise you on the best DNA test to meet your needs, depending on just where in your ancestry, your family tree, you suspect that 'bird' is hiding!

[The woman in the photo is wearing a tradition Cherokee style dress, finishing a traditional Cherokee design in the pot. But she's not Cherokee, she's Berber from Morocco - the "land across the sea"? Many linguistic and cultural clues suggest early contact with the Mediterranean, including Berber Mauritania, Carthage, Etruria, Minoan Greece, Troy, and Phoenicia.]

Brian Wilkes

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tradition, Diet, and Longevity

For those of you who watch what you eat, here's the final word on nutrition and health. It's a relief to know the truth after all those conflicting nutritional studies:

1. The Japanese eat very little fat
And suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

2. The Mexicans eat a lot of fat
And suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

3. The Chinese drink very little red wine
And suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

4. The Italians drink a lot of red wine
And suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

5. The Germans drink a lot of beers and eat lots of sausages and fats
And suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you.


Brian Wilkes

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Harvest Month, and You Can Harvest a 2010 Calendar

Osiyo! Greetings!

Gohi-iga nvgineiga, igvyi-iga Duninvdi.
Today (is) Thursday, first day (of) October.

Duninvdi (doo-NEEN-dee) come from a word meaning harvest, and this is the time we harvest the crops and medicines that let us survive the coming winter. It’s the time we show thanks to our Creator and Provider, to the Earth, and to each other for the harvest.

This mailing list is approaching 600, so to celebrate the milestone there will be gifts! All of those enrolled in Speak Cherokee Level One for any portion of the month of October will receive the 2010 Cherokee Calendar. I had not planned to do another calendar because sales demand didn’t justify it, but several students told me it helped them as a learning tool. So this will be my Harvest Thanks giveaway.

After October 31st, the 2010 Calendar will be a reward for correctly completing Test 3.

So if you needed another incentive to begin your study of the Cherokee language, here it is!

Until next time,
All the best,

Brian Wilkes

Monday, September 7, 2009

Lighting Fires - A Week of Peace and Reconciliation

Tuesday, September 8 , is a Flower Day on the old calendar. For those of you who are new to this, Flower is the last of the 20 day-sign, and contains the seeds of the next 20 day. This is the day to pray for the changes you want to see in the the next 20 days, while they are still in seed. The Mayan priests have asked all people of good conscience to add extra prayers on Flower Days for world peace and the reconciliation of humanity with the natural order.

Wednesday, September 9, is the Day of the Turtle, beginning a week of Turtle. It is also 09/09/09, and people worldwide are lighting fires for peace and healing.

Thursday, September 10, is a Tornado Day. Tornado is a highly focused wind, and the sign of communications as well as power.

Friday, September 11, is a Firepit Day, a sign also known as the Cavern of Refuge, Temple, or Pyramid. In the distant past, it represented our survival of disaster by taking refuge in fire-lit caves. Today, it is the symbol of the kitchen hearth. As we feed and protect the fire, the fire feeds and protects us.

On Wednesday, o9/09/09, representatives of different indigenous nations and traditions will gather at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago to light the fire for a three-day observance. You are invited to join in whatever way you can, even lighting a candle to carry your prayers. You can participate by signing their guestbook… just tell them you heard about the event through

Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut...

Dulisdi the month of nuts. So if I seem a little more nuts than usual, I’m just in keeping with the season!

And if you visit the Smokies, don’t park under the oak trees.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Influenza _ Keep an Eye on the World!

I've posted a link to a real-time global flu map... what's your area's risk?


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

WARNING: Trac-Fone Sucks!

I will NEVER us Trac-Fone again. Customer service is non-existent.
Cancellation of a lost or stolen phone is a nightmare.
What are your experiences with cellular phone carriers?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cleaning Out Our Houses and Our Lives


Today through the weekend, many Cherokees will be celebrating Agawela Seluutsi, the Green Corn Ceremony and Feast. Even though the corn became in June, which is “Green Corn” month in Cherokee.

In recent years, the Green Corn observance, when the corn was developed enough to mean there was a good chance of a harvest, and the Ripe Corn Ceremony, when the corn was developed enough to assure a harvest, have been combined. The months of June and July are called “Green Corn” and “Tasseling Corn” in Cherokee.

Today, Thursday is the new moon, the traditional start of the Cherokee month. In the old days, this was a time for new beginnings – one of several times in the course of a year to re-evaluate your life. People might destroy all their furniture and build new. It was definitely a time to clean out your closets and give away the things you didn’t really need… surplus clothing, food, and today, all those things that accumulate and clutter our lives. Time to give away or throw away!

Among the stress-generating things we also get rid of: debts, grudges, bad habits. In my case, about 50 pounds of weight would be good to get rid of!

The underlying teaching is to get rid of the old, broken, or unnecessary in your life to make room for the new blessings that are on the way. That includes making your home presentable and ready for company.

The harvest is almost ready, and there will be plenty for everyone. We won’t starve this coming winter. Seems assured today; but centuries ago, just getting through the winter alive was an accomplishment.

Today, we have different challenges. The economy has people worried because we need cash to pay our bills. But how much worse could it be if our nation’s crops failed? Green Corn is a reminder that Divine Providence will take care of our needs, but not all of our wants. That’s a matter of each of us cleaning out our own heart.
Witsatologi nihi, Many Blessings to You!

Brian Wilkes

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Carrying a Burden" on Four Legs

I’ve been distracted for the past week by a death in the family. Yes, she had big loving blue eyes, four legs and a tail, and a compulsion for cookies. Kayla was a beagle-husky-whatever mix, rescued from a shelter on the last day before euthanasia. That was ten years ago. Last week her cancer became so bad that the long-delayed needle could be delayed no longer.

All the way back to the story of the dog that sacrificed his life to warn his human family of the coming great flood, we Cherokees have always held a deep love for dogs. We’re told that when we cross the River of Death (the Milky Way) to enter Heaven, we will be met on the other shore by all the dogs we have befriended or rescued in this life. If our right to enter Heaven is questioned, they will testify on our behalf.

To this day, some observant Cherokees are buried with dog biscuits so they can give treats to their long-lost friends who will come to escort them, who will greet them even before their ancestors.

Are there dogs in Heaven? God’s a dog person! We say that when God painted the sky, his dog licked up some of the drips, and has blue spots on his tongue to this day. Cherokee/Carolina dogs, bears, and some wolves share this trait.

The word for dog is gitli (GEE-tlee), sometimes pronounced gihli (GEE-hlee) or even gikli (GEE-klee) depending on the community. But at one time they were called “burden-carrier”: soquili. When Europeans came, that word was gradually applied to the magical creature they brought, the horse, and dogs were used less and less as pack animals.

Today, the burden dogs carry is their devotion to us. They will risk their lives for us without hesitation; they will share our hardship as well as happiness, they will love unconditionally and forgive unremittingly.

Even on her way to the vet for the last time, Kayla continued the role that had become her main duty in later years; showing none of the pain that was devouring her, she was the jester entertaining every one of her crying human family right up to the end.

Years ago, a well-known Lakota traditionalist asked why I’m Christian.

“Because I believe in the healing power of love, of forgiveness, and I believe that these were woven into the fabric of the universe at the creation,” I answered.

He sneered, “There is no forgiveness in nature.”

All I could think of was, poor guy – he never had a dog. But I suddenly understood Pine Ridge a little better.

Don’t know what my future holds or the number of my days, but there will be plenty of cookies and dog treats in my coffin. That will be a small burden to carry.

After all, you can’t disappoint your best friends.

Brian Wilkes

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New Course Content, and Kentucky Native News

I'll be posting some of the responses I got to the question "WHY do you
want to learn Cherokee?" Most of the answers are not reasons, but
justifications, and it becomes increasingly clear to me why many of you
aren't learning.

The first of the instructional course videos will be published today on
the free page. It's part of the Lesson 3 material. Tests 3 through 10
will be posted as videos.

A month ago, a group of Kentucky Indians put their canoes into the Ohio
River where it first touches Kentucky, up by the West Virginia border.
Their mission was to canoe the Kentucky's stretch of the Ohio, stopping
at towns along the way to tell people about issues and initiatives for
this state's Native community. This past Saturday, they finished their
voyage at Wickliffe Mounds, a few miles downriver from the junction
where the Ohio joins the Mississippi. It was a daunting and draining
undertaking, and I'm very proud to say that at least four of the
organizers, Jerry TwoFeather Thornton, his wife Vicki, Nighthawk
Troutman, and Mike Dunn (recently appointed to the state's Native
American Heritage Commission) are all current or former Cherokee
students. In fact, voyage leader Jerry Thornton organized live classes
in Taylorsville, KY two years ago after several years of trying to find
an instructor.
So congratulations to all for this impressive undertaking!

A few have invited me to set up as a vendor at their powwow, telling
people about the Speak Cherokee program. Because of the expense and time
commitment, I seldom go to powwows, and certainly not as a vendor.
However, if you are a powwow-er, I have business cards which you can put
out or hand out. In fact, I'd be grateful if you did. Just send me your
mailing address.
Incidentally, one reason I'm not big on powwows is that they have little
or nothing to do with our Southeastern cultures. While Gen. Sherman once
said "The only good Indian is a dead Indian," the powwow circuit follows
Hollywood in preaching "The only REAL Indian is a plains Indian."

Brian Wilkes
*/ /*

Meteor Showers Wednesday Morning

August 12, 2009 Perseid Meteor Showers begin Wednesday morning….

And when we say August 12, we mean that morning … not that night. These typically fast and bright meteors radiate from a point in the constellation Perseus, and, like all meteors in annual showers, they cover a large part of the sky. The Perseids are considered by many people to be the year’s best shower when the moon is out of the way during the shower’s peak. Unfortnately, this year’s moon is not totally out of the way during the Perseids. The slightly waning gibbous moon rises around midnight – just as the Perseids start to pick up steam. Nonetheless, you should be able to catch some Perseid meteors before moonrise – and even after . The Perseids tend to strengthen in number as midnight ebbs toward dawn. Although not a favorable year, these meteors are often bright and frequently leave persistent trains. What’s more, enhanced activity may be in the works, so perhaps enough brighter meteors can overcome the moonlit glare to make this year’s production worthwhile. From late night on Tuesday, August 11 till dawn on Wednesday, August 12, a decent sprinkling of Perseid meteors may adorn this summer night, despite the pesky moon. Lie back and watch meteors until dawn’s light washes the stars, moon and planets from the sky.


Friday, July 31, 2009

WHY Do You Want To Learn Cherokee?

In any struggle, it’s important to keep your “why” in mind.  Nowhere is this more important than in the study of what many consider a dead or dying language.

Cherokee lives! But on a respirator.

Here’s an e-mail I received recently from someone who truly wants to study the language, but can’t access the program because she doesn’t have a computer:

“I have tried to take your course of speak Cherokee but I don’t have any luck. I can’t get the payment part to work.

I would love to buy a calendar I want to learn more than breathe.  I don’t know what to do -- please tell me how to send the money and to get the calendar. Can I send a money order?  A lot of things won’t work because it says ‘too large to display’ on my phone.

I am confused about it. I truly with all my heart want to learn.”

Turns out she was trying to access the course through a cell phone! I explained that I hadn’t designed the course to be accessible by cell phone. Perhaps it can be accessed through something like an iPhone, I don’t know.

“Wado!  You are great teacher.. thank you! I will get a computer, then I will be good learner. I will save the money and I will get to join to learn! Thank you for telling me. I can’t get to where there is a computer. My legs are bad. I’m in wheelchair. 
I will join soon -- thank you for the wonderful gift you have given me! Please keep teaching. I will find a way to get computer to learn in your class.”

And I have no doubt she will; she has a strong heart and a strong determined spirit.  She has her reason: 

“My parents went on their journey (i.e., crossed over) and to honor them, I want more than my breath of air to learn our language.” 

So tell me… what is the real, emotionally wrenching reason YOU want to put out the effort to learn Cherokee?


Brian Wilkes

Friday, July 3, 2009

Your Holiday Gift!

Guyequoni Tsoinei ko'iga
Today is July 3rd


For Memorial Day, I posted a video of the Cherokee version of America The Beautiful. I've posted the song with full lyrics so you can follow along and learn. That's right, a Cherokee Karaoke channel! (Chero-yokee?)

My computer is near the end of its lifespan, and I'm hearing skips in the audio that I don't remember in the original. Can't tell if it's my computer or the video, so if it sounds skippy to you, please let me know.

Also, I had a question this week:

“I have tried to take your course of Speak Cherokee but I don't have any luck. I can't get the payment part to work. I don't have a computer, only a phone. It says "too large" and won't work."

Unfortunately, Speak Cherokee was not designed to be accessed from an iPhone or Smart Phone, only from a computer. Without a computer, there's not a good way to make online payment. Yes, I take checks or money orders for 6 or 12 month enrollments, but without a computer, you still won't be able to access the course.

Lesson Three and Test Three will be completed in July, my target to finish all ten lessons and tests is the end of the year. One of the keys to learning and retention is to USE the language everyday. Sheer repetition, and linkage of the words to the environment you see every day make the difference. Lessons three and four will be keyed to vocabulary you may use around the house and surrounding outdoors.

Have a wonderful, safe Fourth of July!

Brian Wilkes

Thursday, June 25, 2009

New Geniuses, and Mighty Hunter Has Only Six Months Til Christmas

As we approach our second year online, has reached a crossroad.
In the past weeks, some really sharp people have enrolled for the course material. Not to say people who enrolled previously haven’t been sharp. But some of the new people are also motivated to learn quickly!

Among the points of Speak Cherokee, it’s self-directed and self-paced. It’s online 24-7, so you study when it best fits your schedule. Over the years some have said the material was too confusing, or too difficult, and I’ve tried to adjust things according to your feedback. That’s one reason all ten lessons and tests aren’t posted yet; I’ve been re-writing and re-evaluating based on your feedback.

One woman signed up, and blasted the first two tests in about two weeks. Another did it in one week. I think we’ve established the material isn’t too hard, if you take a little time and work with it.

Another point of Speak Cherokee is that it’s interactive. I’ve gone so far as to get on the phone with people to help with their pronunciation. It’s the same kind of instruction I’d give in a live classroom setting. This is also why I’ve set an upper limit on the number of students that can be enrolled at any time.


Who are the most efficient hunters of the animal world? As much as I’m a dog person, they’re sloppy hunters, a problem they make up for with teamwork. Big cats are by far more efficient. And yet wildlife experts tell us that even the big cats only take down their prey in 1 out of 10 chases. That’s a 10 per cent success rate. I don’t feel so bad now when I introduce a product that doesn’t find its market. If I get 2 out of 10 into profit, I'm a marketing TIGER!

As some of you know, for three years now I’ve produced a Cherokee calendar each year. Not only does it have the modern months and days shown in their Cherokee names, but it has the old Cherokee day-signs and wind-signs, moon phases, seasonal starts and mid-points, and much more information. Everybody said they wanted it… until it was time to pay. I’ve learned some lessons on market research!

There’s not enough interest to justify publishing the calendar, and yet I feel it is still a valuable tool for those learning the language, history and culture.

So effective July 1, enrolled language students will receive the Calendar and each annual update as a bonus. Learning to give the time and date in Cherokee will help you gain familiarity with the language.

Today is June 25, making it six months until Christmas. So consider this notice of an early Christmas gift! The 2010 Cherokee Calendar is now being researched and compiled. Only my students will have it.!

So if you haven’t enrolled, go here and select the plan that best suits you.

All the best,
Brian Wilkes

COMING: More links to natural health and home-based business information.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday! And Operational Notes for Students

Tsunagilosdi gesv! It’s Friday!

Thank you for the response to the “America the Beautiful” video I posted last Saturday. It’s also raised some questions about Code Talkers, which I’ll address soon. For those of you who haven’t found it yet, there’s a page of sing-along videos. Spending some time with these daily will quickly increase your familiarity with the spoken language.

Today, just a few operational notes.

More people are joining this list every day, and may wonder just what we do here. To get on this mailing list, you’ve signed up at either the page or here on the SpeakCherokee blog page. Some of you no doubt want to poke around a bit before making a commitment to enroll in the course. Some of you may also be financially stressed, especially in the current economy, and trying to see what you can learn first without charge. Hey, nothing wrong with that, I do it all the time, too.

When you are ready to enroll, we’ll be ready.

When you enroll, I get a notification from PayPal, and I set a user name and password for you. I do this manually, because there just aren’t enough of you to justify paying for the automation. So I advise that it will be within 24 hours of the time I get the notification; but even I don’t live in front of the computer. I occasionally take a day off.

However, if you’ve enrolled through PayPal and haven’t heard back from me within 24 hours (if you enroll on a weekend, it could be longer), something could be wrong. If you send me e-mail about this please INCLUDE A PHONE NUMBER! Because so many e-mail systems have filters these days, there’s a chance you won’t receive my e-mail reply. You system may send me to the junk bin. I may need clarification on the problem. Recently, I helped to talk a student through a browser plug-in upgrade to allow her to hear the audios. So if you’re sending a question about access and passwords, please include a phone number.


The teaching approach we use duplicates the way a child learns his or her first language: by imitating the adult hundreds and thousands of times with no real grasp of the rules of grammar. This is an online, audio-based approach. We show the Cherokee syllabary only to provide familiarity; in Level 1 we won’t really be dealing with the written language.


When your renewal is due, PayPal attempts to make the payment, If you haven’t funded your account, or don’t haven't it linked to your bank account or credit card, the payment fails. PayPal makes another attempt within a week. After three failed attempts at payment, your subscription is automatically canceled by PayPal.


Trust me, as President Clinton used to say, “I feel your pain.” I make my living online, and help people do the same. I have a system that will let you start an online business with no money, utilizing free online resources and software. Yes it’s work, but that’s one of those four-letter words: life, work, pain, love. You can learn more over on my business blog, Stimulus Package. You can sign up for the newsletter, or just check the blog from time to time.

Until next time, SpeakCherokee!

Brian Wilkes

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Honoring D-Day Vets: America the Beautiful in Cherokee

I've been backed up this week, but I wanted to get this video out for D-Day, or at least by Flag Day, two holidays the mass media has forgotten. I grew up in a community where everyone's dad was a WW2 veteran, including mine. He piloted a landing craft at Normandy until it was shelled out from under him. It was 30 years before he could speak out loud about what he went through that day.

I mention that because we are surrounded by veterans who keep so much to themselves about what they went through... Vietnam, the Balkans, Desert Storm, and now Iraq and Afghanistan. I live up the road from Ft. Campbell, KY, which ordered a stand-down last week to deal with the epidemic of veteran suicides.

"Support The Troops" is more than just a slogan on a car magnet! It means reaching out to the vets, helping them to find the help they need. In my role as a pastor, I'm dealing more and more with current and former military personnel and contractors who are carrying, as one admitted this week, "more baggage than the Titanic." And we all know what happened to the Titanic.

Four years ago, I was asked to translate America the Beautiful
into Cherokee for a patriotic event. The lyric sheet is posted in both the student and non-student sections of . I'll have a teaching-speed version with lyrics posted soon.

If you start learning and singing today, D-Day, you should have it pretty clear by June 16, Flag Day.

Like our nation, our language will survive only as a result of our work and sacrifice. If the British had won the Revolutionary War, we'd all be speaking English today. (Yes, that's a joke).

Sermon's over. Enjoy the weekend. But please remember our language and remember our veterans.

Brian Wilkes

PS: For those of you who only know the history you see on the screen, it was the battle at the beginning of "Saving Private Ryan."

Monday, June 1, 2009

Corn months, Dreams, and Financial Help


Go’hi iga Unadodaquinvi, igvgai Dehaluyi!
It’s Monday, first day of June!

Monday is considered the start of the week. Cherokees call Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are called Second Day, Third Day, and Fourth Day.
It’s also a Turtle day, beginning the cycle of twenty day-signs again.
First or the week, first of the month, first of the 20-Day cycle. A good day for new beginnings!

Yesterday we ended An’sgvti, the month of “They Plant.” And just what did they plant? Selu, of course! We now start months with Corn names: Green Corn and Ripe Corn.

They development of a corn-based agriculture was a major step for our ancestors. The plant requires human intervention to propogate. Although it provides the ability to produce a surplus of food, there are several drawbacks:

[1] Grains provide poor nourishment compared to wild plants and game animals. You don’t worry so much about starving, but you aren’t as healthy.

[2] Agriculture requires communities to be rooted to the land, to protect the crop.

[3] Agricultural societies are more complex than hunter-gatherer societies, and those socieites develop more complex worldviews and languages to express that worldview.

[4] Farm labor is HARD! Farmers go hunting and fishing for recreation; professional hunters never say “I’m going to take the week off and hoe out a truck farm.”

Corn is so central to Cherokee life that we are said to descend from a woman who developed from an ear of corn. Of the six major public ceremonies, three are linked to the growth cycle of corn.

So, what corn do you grow? This question once meant “What results do you produce?”
Give that one some thought.


I’ve been thinking of specials I can offer to get more of you to try the language course. After my recent posting about the linguistic nature of dreams, I had several requests to explain strange or troubling dreams. So how’s this? The next 50 people who enroll will have my humble analysis of a dream or waking vision. Please allow a few weeks.


Some of you have recently left the program, citing financial hardship. I certainly understand, and I’ve been looking for solutions. Things are tight on my end as well!

For the past year, I’ve been working on a product that teaches people with little or no technical skill how to use their computers to make money online with no cash expenditure required. No hosting fee, no domain fee, no adverstising expenses. I was just wrapping it up when I found a new software (somebody beat me to market) that does everything I had designed, and more… and at a price so low I can’t compete.

So after I kicked myself for not getting my product out faster, I decided to promote the better product. The package is 30 instructional videos, full written instructions, all for $8.
You really can’t beat this deal, I’ve tried:

So grow some corn, work toward results. Make changes. We’re here to help.


Brian Wilkes

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Flutes and songs


As I write this, it's the last day of An'sgvti (They Plant, i.e. May). It's time to shift into the "corn" months. More on that later.

I mentioned the outstanding flutes made by one of our Cherokee students - and you know I LOVE to brag on my students! I actually own two of them now, and here I am with one of them. The bloodwood seems to match my coloring, huh?

Want to know how you can get one of these exceptional instruments? Just visit RunningBear Flutes for details.

I'm putting the finishing touches on teaching videos for the Cherokee version of "America The Beautiful." These will be in both normal speed and very slow teaching speed. With a little work, you can be presentable by Fourth of July.

Check back often ... more to come!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cherokee Language Student Named to State Board

I always love to hear when my students achieve something exceptional.

Mike Dunn has been appointed to Kentucky’s Native American Heritage Commission, our equivalent of an Indian Affairs Commission.

Mike has been very active in Native affairs and veteran affairs here in Kentucky for years, and I think he’ll be a great asset to the commission.

When I did live Cherokee language classes two years ago in Taylorsville, KY (near Louisville), Several of the Dunns attended, and put in a lot of effort.

So congratulations to Mike Dunn, I’m sure you’ll make us all proud!

By the way, as I visit the Heritage Commission web page, it feels like a family reunion...

The woman who designed the Native American license plate is one of my students...

The three children who sang Cherokee songs for the event, along with their mother, were my students...

Perhaps people who make the effort to learn the language are just high achievers!

Brian Wilkes

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What Do Your Dreams Speak?

Freud said "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." I'll add that sometime an otter is just a sprouted seed.

A strange case of linguistic dream analysis...

One of my Cherokee students called with a question. Knowing that I’m on the medicine path, she asked me to help her understand a vision that confused her.

She mentioned entering a body of water where there were two otters. As she said that, the Cherokee word for otter flashed through my mind. Tsiya, pronounced CHEE-ah. As the sound of that word echoed in my skull, I thought of the Aztec chia, a tiny seed that sprouts much like alfalfa. These are the living component of “chia pets,” and the root of the name of the Mexican state of Chiapas. Knowing that my caller had a connection to an Apache elder who had recently crossed over, I knew this was more than coincidence. As we continued to talk, I received the message that she was to begin stockpiling chia seeds, as the Apache and Aztec did, as an emergency food source and intestinal medicine.

I never would have “connected the dots” between the word “otter” and the humble salvia hispanica had I not known the Cherokee word, and had I not also known the Nahual word.

The former deputy principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, Hastings Shade, used to tell me that one reason modern people can’t hear the voices of the spirits as well as when he was a child is because we don’t listen anymore. We’re too busy talking, or driving our cars with the radios blasting. It may also be because as we get farther from our ancestral languages, we can’t understand even when spoken to!

So here’s one more reason to begin speak Cherokee again: to actually hear the spirits of the places in which we live, and who speak to us in our dreams and visions.

We’re ready when you are. Enroll!

Brian Wilkes

Monday, May 11, 2009

Some of our students won't see this for a few days...

About 100 miles north of me, friends in Illinois are still without power or phones after a windstorm hit Friday afternoon. Meteorologists say these were straight-line winds, not tornadoes. But winds that reach 100 mph are damaging no matter what shape they take. Trees down, cars destroyed, houses damaged.

Part of the Cherokee prophecies for the final few years before the start of the Sixth World in December 2012 include sustained winds up to 200 mph, but we’ll save that for another time.

For today, we’ll deal with weather language:

Wind is unole (oo-NO-ley).
Tornado is agaluga (a-ga-LOO-gah), often contracted to gah-LOOG.

Some weather terms are present-tense only. For example, “It’s sunny", “It’s raining”, “It’s snowing.” Because these are expressed as verbs, and single words in each example, the word itself changes if you aren’t speaking about conditions in the present moment.

This is one example of how familiarity with the language alters the way you conceive and interact with the forces around you, and why it is so important to USE the language every day.

As I write this, I hear the songs of birds outside the window. Part of my mind recognizes tsisquoquo, tlutlu and even dotsuwa this morning. The other part of my mind calls them robin, jay, and cardinal, and understands why the cardinal was named for the archbishop’s red regalia, but wonders why two boy’s nicknames are used for the others.

What language you speak influences how you organize your thoughts. If you want to start think Cherokee, you have to speak Cherokee every day.

Brian Wilkes

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cherokee Language Instructor Gregg Howard Crosses Over

Sad News from Oklahoma…

Lari Howard from Tahlequah just notified me that her husband, noted Cherokee language teacher Gregg Howard, crossed over Thursday morning after a long bout with cancer. I had spoken with them by phone just a few weeks ago, and he was upbeat as ever.

The memorial service will be at Park Hill Presbyterian Church on Sunday, May 3 at 11:00. Another memorial will be held this summer in Dallas. If you make it to either, tell Lari that you’re my student, give her a big hug from me, and that

Gregg was from Central City, Kentucky, between Hopkinsville and Bowling Green, but had lived for years in Dallas, and more recently in Tahlequah. He appears on several of the Rich-Heape videos, including “Trail of Tears,” in which he portrays Sequoyah.

Over the decades, Gregg’s publications on Cherokee language and culture, as well as workd on Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and others, have reached tens of thousands, if not more. He called his company VIP, for Various Indian Peoples, but as far as anyone in the field cared, Gregg Howard was the VIP of Native American language education.

My cousins and friends, the number of fluent Cherokee speakers has dropped 20% in the past seven years alone. If you are interested in preserving our ancestral language, no matter whether it’s through or some other means, then please start today. Do something, don’t just think about it. Say something, anything, in Cherokee. Sing a song. Go to and follow along with the video. More songs will be added shortly.

We don’t have Gregg to lean on anymore like a walking stick. It’s time for you to stand up.

Brian Wilkes

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"You can be a warrior, or you can be a victim, but you can't be both."

Last week I sent a message about the rapid decline of fluent Cherokee speakers. I had my wake- up call when told that a group revising the Eastern Band constitution had trouble reading older printed constitutions well enough to understand the nuances of legal aspects – original intent, and so forth.

Monday, I had another awakening. The new PBS Series “We Shall Remain” lists on their web site the statistic that there are now fewer than 8,000 fluent Cherokee speakers

That means that despite the best efforts of tribal governments and schools, and dozens of people like me “crying in the wilderness” on the Internet, we’re losing ground quickly.

One speaker in the video sums it up: “There is no tomorrow.”

Go to any powwow, and you’ll hear Cherokee spoken - usually osiyo, wado, uh-huh, perhaps sgi, dohitsu and osda. You may even hear people singing “Wendeyaho” and thinking the words are Cherokee.

When I did live classes here in west Kentucky, I joked with United Keetoowah friends that I was also starting an advanced Cherokee course, “Beyond Osiyo”.

There’s a big difference between starting to learn a language and becoming fluent. Speak Cherokee Level One will not magically make you a fluent speaker. Duh, that’s why it’s called Level One.

So if you’ve been putting off starting the journey, remember, “There is no tomorrow.” isn’t just about learning the language; it’s about forming a community of students and speakers. One feature we offer is an exchange page, where we’ll promote the businesses of currently enrolled students. I’m also planning forum page when we reach a certain number of students.

I’m working to add more video instruction, including songs and prayers, to make the learning process as enjoyable as possible. PLEASE make suggestions; I don’t claim to have all the answers. I’m one person in a remote corner of Kentucky.

One of the Keetoowah teachers, Choogie Kingfisher, said that “WE are the new warriors, we who work to preserve the language and culture.” So I’m challenging you, don’t be a victim, don’t just be a student, but become a warrior. The language is LOSING ground – will you just sit there and watch it happen?

Brian Wilkes

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!


For those of you still in the holiday mood, here's your digital Easter Card

Here's a linguistic oddity: the word for offspring, seed, and egg are the same in Cherokee: Jesus is called God's uwetsi...

Does that make him the original Easter egg?

All the best,

Brian Wilkes

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

April Flowers

Osiyo, digusdi!
It's good (to be with you), cousins!

Ko'iga tsoine-iga, kawoni igvgai.
Today is Third Day (Tuesday), April first.

Ko'iga atsilvsgi-iga, dohiyi gesesdi.
Today is a Flower day, may there be peace and harmony.

It's the month of blooming flowers, and here in west Kentucky, what trees remain after the devastating winter storm are sprouting blossoms.

It's fitting that the first day of the flowering month should also have the day-sign Flower.
This is the final sign of twenty, and is considered to hold in its blossom the seeds of the next twenty-day cycle.

The Elders have asked us to mark each Flower Day with additional prayers for peace, healing , and reconciliation.

A quick scan of the recent news reveals an alarming rise in mass murders here in the US.

One stressor has to be the economic uncertainty, even panic, in many homes.

To help, "Speak Cherokee" will continue it's family member special: If you are subscribed for the course, a family member can join you, complete the tests and eventually receive a certificate of completion. We already Have one husband and wife team taking advantage of this.

By The Way: The Cherokee word for money, adelv, originally referred to beadwork sections or 'wampum' formerly used for exchange.

CONGRATULATIONS to Van Bevil of Alabama. After a week in the course, he aced the first test. He's also an amazing talent as an artist and craftsman, and we may be showing you some of his work shortly.

Another one of the students, Edinburgh-based singer Talitha Mackenzie, has scheduled appearances here in the US starting in late spring... we'll have details.

LAST CHANCE: The 2009 Cherokee Calendar will remain on sale for instant download only until Tuesday, April 7.
It's a great way to become familiar with the names of the months, days, and day-signs.

And remember, there's more on the blog:

To all

PS: Ever notice how some men in the South or Southwest address each other as "Goose"? Strange nickname?
Not really. Look at my opening line. Digusdi is plural for gusdi, "cousin". Since the final vowels are often dropped, it sounds more like "goosd". It's old Cherokee custom to address a Cherokee you've never met before as cousin, to acknowledge some possibility of blood kinship. It simply sounds like the English word for a big loud bird.

Until next time!

Brian Wilkes

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Definition of Powwow

Hello again!

Two weeks ago I promised to give you the literal meaning of powwow. There have been some interesting opinions, but in fact, it's a Narragansett word meaning "he dreams" or "dreamer". In parts of New England and as far south as Virginia, some languages use the spelling pauwau. The New Jersey city of Mahwah, usually translated as "meeting place", takes its name from the same root.

Centuries ago, people who had dreams that might be important visions went to elders to have the dream interpreted. This review session evolved into an annual or semi-annual group event. As people were waiting to have their dreams interpreted, they had to eat. As long as people were gathered together, might as well get some trading done. And while the elders heard the dreams and visions out of sight of the crowd, this was also an opportunity to conduct ceremonial and healing dances.

Some say the term dreamer refers equally to the person having the vision, and to the person interpreting it, and so another reasonable definition is "a gathering of spiritual leaders and/or spiritual seekers." One anonymous reader suggested "gathering of spirits," which isn't far off.

While our Cherokee ancestors traditionally held six annual public ceremonies, these were not powwows. It has been suggested that the Stomp Dance is predecessor to the powwow, but that's quite a stretch. So no, there is no Cherokee word for powwow.

What we call a powwow today developed at the beginning of the 20th century, and really took hold in the 1950's. After the misunderstanding of the Ghost Dance that led to the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890, Indians were forbidden to gather to dance and sing... except to educate or entertain white people. What evolved was a combination of elements drawn from genuine tradition, circus, traveling carnivals, minstrel shows, and the famed Wild West shows. Indians both pandered to and lampooned white pre-conceptions.

Today, powwows can be roughly divided into traditional gatherings, which may even avoid the use of the word powwow, and competition powwows, which are centered on dance competitions, often for cash prizes. If you see dance outfits made of day-glo yarn and lamee cloth, good chance you're not at a traditional event!

Brian Wilkes

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Wolves and Coyotes

Osiyo, nigada!  Greetings, all!

Ko’iga Unadodaquinvi, Anayilisv taline, Iga Kanati
Today is Monday, March 2nd, Day of the Wolf

Some have asked about these words that open many of these mailings, so I’ll break it down for you:

"Osiyo" is the traditional Cherokee greeting, “It’s good (to see you).” According to some fluent elders, it’s really the ONLY Cherokee greeting. Constructions such as “Osda sunalei” good + morning, are actually statements rather than greetings. But a truth about any living language is that it changes.

Oh, one thing that annoys me is when people insert an apostrophe in osiyo, making it o’siyo. This may have come about because the first widely available book on the language, “Beginning Cherokee,” used a typeface in which the apostrophe and accent mark were identical. Apostrophes are used to show where letter have been intentionally dropped, such as “don’t.” Osi is the root for “good”, so nothing has been dropped between the “o” and the “si”. If you drop the first syllable, then ‘Siyo is fine.

I’m also annoyed by people who hyphenate powwow, but I regard that as advertising misuse like Krispy Kreme. Public praise to the first person who can tell me what the word ‘powwow’ means.

Ko’iga is contracted from kohi iga or now + day, today.

Some of you have noticed that the word Kanati is not the more common word for wolf, waya or wahaya. Kanati is a proper name, usually translated as lucky or fortunate hunter. It is the name of the day-sign symbolized by the wolf. Several of the 20 daysign names are not literal.

Wolves have made their presence known recently...

At the end of January, my region of Kentucky suffered a devastating ice storm that’s being called the worst disaster in a century. The entire power grid was knocked out in one night, and some people were without electricity for weeks. The rain froze on the trees, creating hundreds of pounds of weight that brought limbs crashing down on utility lines, roads, and even buildings. We’re still digging out.

So is the wildlife. Recently, I’ve heard many more wolves and coyotes near my windows at night. Their winter dens were destroyed, and they are struggling to find food and new lodgings. Turf wars are brewing, all the lines are being re-drawn. It’s denning time in advance of the birth of the wolf and coyote litters. They are preying on the newborn fawns and anything else they can find.

For those of you more familiar with the urban life, wolves don’t tolerate coyotes in their territory. Wolves are about three times their size, so smart coyotes flee, and dumb or slow coyotes die. The result, as Darwin would tell you, is smarter and faster coyotes. Perhaps this is the origin of their “trickster” status… they had to be faster and smarter to survive.

I live in a very rural area. My friends around the country sometimes wonder how I can live in a place with no movies, theaters, art museums, bookstores, shopping malls.

I wonder how they can live in a place where they can’t hear the choral song of the wolves in the night, even if the wolves are arguing with the coyotes. As one of the medicine people says, "How lonely is the night without the song of the wolves.”

Brian Wilkes

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Uktena Day: Look for A Comet

Osiyo, nigada! Hello, everyone!

Last week, I told you that today (Tuesday) would be an unusual day on the Cherokee Calendar.This evening begins the new moon, the start of the Cherokee month. For many observant Cherokees, this still means one to four days of fasting, starting Wednesday.

Wednesday, coincidentally, is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, and a fast day for Roman Catholics and many other Christians.

Tuesday also is a Day of the Uktena, the legendary Cherokee dragon or horned/crested/feathered snake. The Uktena is associated with lethal events, such as disaters and war. Last week, I mentioned on possible scenario.

The Uktena is also one of the emblems for comets and meteors, the other sign being the Panther. As it happens, Tuesday is the day that a newly-discovered comet, Lulin, is expected to become its brightest.

Lulin is easier to see in the morning just after dawn, if you look to the west-southwest. The comet is greenish, and should have begun to elongate.

Here's a little vocabulary for you:

galvlohi (gah-luhn-LO-hee) Sky
noquisi (NOCK-wih-see or NOX-ee) Star
noquisi ganahida (NOX-ee gah-nuh-HEE-dah) Long Star, or Comet.
svnoyi (suh-NO-yee) Night

And when you're walking around in the dark, Tsag'sesdesdi! Watch out for yourself

More next time!

Brian Wilkes