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