Wednesday, December 29, 2010

On A Dark Anniversary, Many Forms of Survival


Today is December 29, 2010. Twenty years ago I invited to be was part of a ceremony commemorating the centennial of the Wounded Knee Massacre.  In the cold night, we gathered for the inipi.  At least two of the men were descendants of those who were there on that awful day.  The ground was frozen solid, and the first seven red hot rocks did little more then to fall the ground into cold mud.  It was like we were being rebuilt from the ground up; whatever other terrors that day had seen, we could now identify with the frozen ground and the very real possibility of death by freezing.

This week I began to see how many names I could remember, reaching out those who had participated that day in 1990.  It was a small intertribal group, perhaps a dozen or so participants.  As I had expected, in 20 years several of the people had crossed over.  I just found today that the ceremonial leader is alive and well.

In the past 20 years, I’ve learned much more about the events of the Massacre, including errors of judgment on both sides over the preceding month.  I have learned of the aftermath, of reprisals on both sides.  And I have learned much more about the ceremony that was at least nominally at the center of it all.

Not freezing to death in the winter is one marker of physical survival.  Continuing to speak a language that was targeted for extinction is another.  Today, there are about 40,000 Sioux (Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota), about 14,000 of whom can speak the language.  Despite all that has been thrown at them, they endure.

A news story was recirculated this week about Apple enabling the iPhone for Cherokee language. Deep in the story was an appreciation by Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.  He spoke of how will this would be received by the 8,000 fluent speakers in the Cherokee Nation, and what this could mean to promote the new generation to use the language.
Chief Smith in 2002
EIGHT thousand?

Fifteen years ago, I began teaching the language in live monthly classes in a church in New Jersey.  I wasn’t fluent then, and I’m not fluent now, but I believe that we can’t wait, that each of us has to do what we can, now.  People would drive from as far as Albany, New York and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for the chance to learn the language that their grandparents had been forbidden.  At that time, the Cherokee Nation boasted 15,000 fluent speakers.  In some of the teaching materials we used, which were almost 20 years old, it referred to 20,000 fluent speakers.  When I traveled to Tahlequah, Oklahoma in 2002 and met several of the people from the Cultural Affairs Office, and with Chief Smith, they had just made a disturbing discovery.  There were 10,000 fluent speakers, and yet testing of children just starting school showed that none were fluent, and few heard any Cherokee spoken of home.  What could be the source of this contradiction? 

They looked deeper, and found that there was not a fluent speaker in the CNO under age 40.  Do the math – that would mean extinction of the language in another generation.  Emergency plans were implemented to make Cherokee language available to all Cherokee elementary students.  After eight years of intense efforts, there are 2,000 fewer speakers.  It would be easy to look quickly and say “the program isn’t working”.  But it’s likely that most of the loss is from fluent Elders crossing, something no governmental program or tribal program can stop. In other words, it could have been worse.

Survival takes many forms. It may be physical, spiritual, cultural, community, tribal/ethnic, environmental, or global.
What commitment do you make, what action do you take, to see that the Cherokee language survives and thrives for the next generations?
Before I forget, there are only three days left for the holiday specials.  You can save $93.00 for a full year of SpeakCherokee language instruction.
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Until 2011,
Sta yu (be strong / hang tough / endure)
Brian Wilkes

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A few questions from students...


More of you are starting to ask questions and understand that this course only work when the student and teacher interact. Today, I want to answer several questions sent by one of our California students.

At this size, they can also drill for oil!
Q: Does gugu describe any kind of bottle (baby, liquor, plastic & stainless steel water bottles, etc.)?
A: Yes! In fact, it describes almost any smaller liquid container – a mosquito, for instance (a flying blood bottle) or a gourd IF used to hold a liquid.

Q: Is there a difference between hayulasdi (Labels 1) and hayelasdi (Labels 2)?
A: No. There is still no standardized spelling in Cherokee.

Q: In the crossword, you have pigeon as "woyi" but show pictures of pigeons in the video as gule disgonihi.  Is there much of a difference on how they're used in Cherokee?
A: Yes, that was a goof on my part. Gule disgonihi really refers to the mourning dove, while woya or woyi is a more general term applied to all doves and pigeons. 

Holiday specials coming to an end:

Right night, you can still get one full year of Speak Cherokee access for $147, reduced from the regular annual price of $200, or $240 if paid monthly. It’s a great deal, and it ends on January 1.

The Cherokee Calendar Calculation and Analysis for any birth date is still $77, reduced from the regular $97.

More to come tomorrow, Christmas Eve!

Until then, Danistayohihv!


PS: In preparation for 2011 -
  1. More lessons, more videos! 
  2. A Cherokee Language New Testament, large print, in syllabary + phonetic + English.
  3. A Cherokee Hymnal 
  4. A new translation of a portion of the Cherokee migration saga and prophecy, first committed to writing in the 19th century.
  5. A Medicine Garden Manual focusing on the most commonly used Cherokee medicine plants.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The "Cyber Monday" deal is being repeated, because ol' fumble-fingers botched the links!

On "Cyber Monday" I sent this message. I was really surprised that I didn't get any reply, and today I realized why... I entered the wrong link! So here's a make-good, with my apologies...

Would you rather save $112.99 or $39.99 today?

If you’ve been on this list for a while, you know that I offer three Cherokee-related products:

[1] The Speak Cherokee online interactive language instruction program.   This is regularly $200 per year or $20 per month(= $240 per year).

[2] The annual Cherokee Calendar, an illustrated calendar showing a wealth of information based on the old Calendar.  This is regularly $19.99.

[3] Detailed individual ANALYSIS based on the old Cherokee Calendar. These run about 24 pages, and people have found them valuable tools for understanding their lives.  These are regularly $97.
  • As you probably know, the Speak Cherokee program is already discounted to $147 until the end of the year.
  • The Calculation and Analysis is marked down to $77 until FRIDAY, December 10. After December 10, completion in time for Christmas becomes questionable.
So here’s your Cyber Monday Super Special:

Get EITHER the Calculation & Analysis for $77 or the full year of Speak Cherokee for $147, and I’ll GIVE you the 2011 Cherokee Calendar as a bonus! That’s a $19.99 value for acting today.Think of it as an early gift!
So you save $93 +$19.99 = $112.99 with the Speak Cherokee package, and $20 + $19.99 = $39.99 with the Analysis package.

If you had considered getting an Analysis done as a holiday gift, now you can also give the Calendar.  
And because of my error in the previous mailing and blog, this special will be good through FRIDAY, December 10.

Brian Wilkes

Monday, November 22, 2010

Holiday Special - Your Christmas Card and Enclosed Gift!

Hello again!

You’ve told me that you are interested in having another full-year special, and so I’ve posted the links.
Click on the link to see how to get $220 of membership benefits for $147 This offer will be removed no later than January 1, 2011.  I know that the economy is tough, so I’m making this available for five full weeks so to allow as many people as possible from my mailing list the chance to take advantage of it.  Consider this your Cherokee Christmas gift card for the year - and shake that card until the real gift drops out!

As you can see, my big green friend is getting into the holiday spirit!  But what you may not know is that he also sings “I’m a little teapot,” because in Cherokee the same word is used for both of tea kettle and an alligator .  If you’ve ever seen the old hobnail style cast iron tea kettles that sat in a fire, you can easily see the resemblance to an alligator puffing and snorting, its breath fogging up on a cold morning.  The word written beneath him is “tsulasdi,” the word for both tea kettle and alligator.  

The word above him his “danistayohihv”, which a literally means “they go shooting.” Why would Christmas be celebrated with that phrase?  Because in the old days, the big family Christmas dinner required the men to go hunting on Christmas morning.  Christmas morning was filled with the festive sounds of children shredding and crackling gift wrapping paper, and the sounds of hunters in the woods.  Another sound of the holiday is the sound of firecrackers, especially here in the South.  Imagine long strings of firecrackers and think of the similarity to long strings of flashing Christmas tree lights.  See the similarity?  So the expression "they go shooting" refers to hunters, firecrackers, and Christmas tree lights.

The Christmas season is a feast of sights and sounds, colors and flavors. It's my hope that by this time next year, you will be able to describe some of that experience in Cherokee!

Nvwadohiyada, healing and peace to you, 
Brian Wilkes

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"Scratcher", a New Path, and Holiday Gift Ideas.

Hello everybody!

In case you're wondering what happened to me, I've been fighting with a hard drive crash.  The backup computer is in place and functioning, so everything should be back to normal and a few days.

Today, Monday November 15 is a day of the Scratcher.  The Cherokee word kanuga simply means the brier thorn.  Thorns were used in a type of ritual comb that was raked across the surface of the skin to draw blood.  This created a series of openings in the skin upon which medicinal poultices could be applied.

But the word also has a symbolic meaning…  rattlesnake fang or tooth.  Some scratchers were made of snake teeth, and in some cases the scratching was done with an eagle claw.  (Snake and Eagle are opposing day signs in the traditional calendar.)

Since rattlesnakes were once thought to only strike and kill those people who for some reason deserved it, it was considered bad luck to admit out loud that you had been struck by a snake.  The euphemism was to be "scratched by a thorn."  Even today, Cherokees will sometimes speak of being "scratched," even though they will admit that they were scratched by a snake.
The scratching ceremony was done either as a preparation for medical treatment or as a preparation for another ceremony.  In that sense, it was considered the end of one cycle and the beginning of another, a fork in the road that represented both a continuation of the old path and the beginning of a new one.

We are soon coming to the beginning of a new year.  We hope that you will take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about Cherokee tradition and language, and more importantly, to pass that on to your children and grandchildren.  Both the language and the calendar are complex, and require long study before they seem familiar.  However, both provide you with new ways of seeing and describing the world that we inhabit and share.

The 2011 Cherokee Calendar is now available in a download version.

The Cherokee Calendar Calculation and Analysis makes a unique Christmas gift.  Because you were part of this mailing list, you can have one researched and composed for you for a $20.00 discount.  That's the regular price with Andrew Jackson removed!  Let's see how he likes being removed!

Just one thing to be aware of, because of the hours required to research, analyze and compose each report, I can only work so fast.  That means that the deadline for orders with guaranteed Christmas digital delivery will be Friday, December 10. After that, it's iffy.

That's all for now!  I wish everyone of you as safe and happy holiday season with your families.

Brian Wilkes

Monday, November 1, 2010

A New Month, and the 2011 Calendar Upgrade is available!

Olmec Figurines with miniature stelae

Monday (Nov 1) begins the month of Nvdatequa (Big Moon), considered the end of summer and beginning of winter. In the old days, this was considered the start of a new year, the time when God had created the world in its most brilliant colors. We give thanks for the creation of this beautiful Earth, and give thanks for being  honored to be part of this creation.

Tuesday (Nov 2) is a Flower (Atsilvsgi) Day, the end of a 20-day cycle, and a time for additional prayers for reconciliation of conflicts with other people and with nature itself.


As before, it includes the 2011 Cherokee Calendar, Manual, and even the 2010 Calendar.

I listened to your comments on the original July release, and have added several features.
  • There is a more thorough explanation of the Bird or Wind Signs. 
  • There is an explanation of the Olmec origins of the Calendar, and a commentary of the Olmec view of the 20 day signs as a long journey of the soul, not unlike the Egyptian “Book of the Dead” or the Tibetan “Bardo Thodol”.  (Physical birth, life, and death are concluded by the 6th sign, and then the REAL journey begins!)
  • The Upgrade includes a page of bonuses, including discounts on Calendar Analysis Reports and DNA testing.
 If you purchased the July release and for some reason did NOT yet receive the Upgrade, please contact me


For those who are enrolling in Speak Cherokee, please remember that I send the access information by email, and I use the email address attached to your PayPal account unless otherwise requested. If that email in no longer valid, it won’t reach you. If you have not white-listed my email address, it will bounce or go to your junk mail file.  This has happened a few times, and it’s been very frustrating, since I couldn’t reach the student right away. In one case, the student had a business, and I was able to look up the phone number online.

If you are trying to reach me to complain about this, please include a telephone number, since we’ve established that email isn’t working for some reason.

Brian Wilkes

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"Old Calendar" New Year


One things so confusing about the old Cherokee Calendar is the fact that it is any overlay of several different cycles which have little apparent relation to each other. By comparison, the modern Gregorian calendar is simple, streamlines, and straightforward, which is probably why it fostered the explosion of technology while the older calendars fell into disuse.

The basic unit of measure is a solar day (iga). But since there are other cycles of 9, 13, 18, and 20, the multiples 260 and 360 become important. The personal or “human” calendar has 260 days. The Community calendar has 360 days, and the “real” solar year has 365 days.  The difference between the 360 and 365 calendar is five days, which this year run from October 2 through October 6, with October 7 being the first day of the new solar year, Purple Martin Reed.

These are known in Cherokee as “Un-Time,” “Forbidden Days,” or “Useless Days”. These are the days when the veil between the worlds grows thin, and the weird quotient goes off the scale. In some cultures, all foodstuffs and clutter were trashed to avoid carrying rot and clutter over into the new year, and it may seem like your lives are on a loss cycle. If you feel your life is going to pieces right now, it may be because you have enough sensitivity to recognize it while others are self-medicated into oblivious ignorance.

October 7, 2010 begins the Year of the Reed of the Purple Martin Wind. According to the Day and Week signs, it will be the year to build community, develop outreach programs, and also to develop information/intelligence gathering programs in your communities and families. For example, this Saturday here in Kentucky, we will meet to consider for our diverse Native American community can best deal with the issues facing us in the coming year.

Now, if you’re not confused yet… What’s usually called “Cherokee New Year” is a harvest festival and meal celebrated on the full moon of the month Nvdadequa or Nvwatitequa – “Big Moon” or “Big Healing”. This year, that’s November 21.


Lesson Four includes a series of instructional videos for the Lord’s Prayer. These are broken into segments, and pronounced a super-slow speed. There’s also a video with the entire prayer recited super-slow, so you can follow along.  I have one more video to do, a recording of the entire prayer at conversational speed, with the words contracted as you would normally hear it spoken.  

Recitation of prayers and songs is one of the best ways to learn and RETAIN a language. To really grasp any language, you must make a point of using it every day. Songs and prayers are a great way to do that.

That's it for now, friends!

Nvwadohiyada, True Peace and Health be with you!

Brian Wilkes

PS: I recently spend some time with a man from the Tuscarora Nation, who also speaks Cayuga-Mohawk. It was fascinating to hear the similarities and differences between Cherokee and the closely related Tuscarora, and more distantly related Mohawk. Sgi!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Contractions and Elongations

Osiyo, 'ginali!


One thing that confuses students is the Cherokee practice of contracting words.The contracted version, the way people really speak, is sometimes called "conversational" Cherokee, while pronouncing all the syllables is called "formal" Cherokee.

The late instructor Sam Hider used to say that the practice of speaking only contracted or conversational Cherokee verges on laziness, and erodes the language.

I try to use formal Cherokee to start, sometimes using the elegant Cherokee of the New Testament, and then give several examples of how a word may sound when actually spoken to you. This confuses some students who ask me "You gave it several different ways - which is correct?" The answer is, ALL of them are correct.

What's not as well know is the opposite effect: elongation. In some parts of Elizabethan Britain, the practice developed of adding or elongating syllables to raise the "status" of the word. Today, the most common survival of this in America is the Southern preacher who says "Je-sus-suh" or "Holy Ghost-tuh."Listen to a few backwoods preachers when they get a good preach goin' on, and you'll hear many syllables that are not there in the written language.

It also occurs in proper names. As a person grows older, their name may sprout extra syllables, and even more as they crossed the threshold into Elder status. One friend grew up thinking her father's name was Ira, two syllables. After years away from home, she noticed people were now calling him "I-yeh-rah," and eventually "I-yer-rah-huh" before he passed.

It appears this English practice carried over into spoken Cherokee in some parts of Southern hill country. I've spotted it in East Tennessee, East Kentucky, and West Virginia. I've heard very little of it in Oklahoma, but it just may be a question of whom I've spoken with.

The point is, as I've told you here before, there are not just two dialects of Cherokee, Eastern and Western. There are at least nine recognized sub-dialects, and there are "family versions" of the language as well.

Sometimes "family versions" develop from the tradition of not speaking the name of the deceased. In more extreme cases, if the name was a common word, that word must be replaced in everyday conversation. For example, if the deceased was named Crow, the bird now becomes a "dark-wing" or a "corn-thief." In a few generations, a wide variety of new words and usages developed. Like any living thing, a language grows and changes.


The Cherokee used for the New Testament is the most elegant form of the language known in the early 19th century. I think it's a great practice to do a few minutes of songs and recitation each day. The key to learning any language is joyful (not grudging) repetition.

As we mentioned last time, Eastern Band Elder and teacher Walker Calhoun advises that you listen to a new word or phrase 21 times before trying to say it. I've recorded a series of nine videos showing the lyrics as I pronounce the words very slowly. This is part of Lesson Four.

Some have complained, and some newsletter subscribers have actually canceled because I make references to the Bible.

First, there's a long-standing tradition that we treat others and what they consider sacred with respect, even if we don't think much of it.

There's the famous story of the Eagle of Eufala. When the Creek people came into the area of Eufala, Alabama, they found long-deserted towns. In one, they found a carved golden eagle. They didn't know who made it or exactly what it represen
ted, but from the way it was stored, they could tell if was a sacred item. They kept it with the respect it had been given before they found it, preserved it, and took it with them when they were removed to Oklahoma. The "Eagle of Eufala" is still being kept in case one day, the descendants of its creators arrive and ask to have it back.

Second, it's a simple fact that the great majority of Cherokee people are at least nominally Christian, and have been for generations. If you aren't, that's fine with me. If you're upset because I present Christian hymns and prayers rather than Stomp Dance songs, my reply is that maybe I will, when I know some well enough AND have permission from Stomp Dance leaders to share them (not likely any time soon, sorry). Until then, I will say with Geronimo, "I am not ashamed to be a Christian."

Brian Wilkes

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

New Moon, Prayer Videos Posted, Calendar Healing

Osiyo, my dear students and friends! First some good news.

In the next month we may see the restoration of two ceremonies that have been missing for a while. Plans are underway once again to begin a Stomp Dance ground in West Kentucky. I’m overjoyed that this plan is moving forward once again, and hope to have more information for you soon. To my knowledge, the only authorized and recognized Stomp Ground in the East is the one at Big Cove, but that may have change since I last checked about seven years ago.
Speaking of seven years, it’s been that long since I relocated here to beautiful West Kentucky. Another ceremony is being restored this weekend, one brought back by the prophet Smohalla after his four years with the ancestral Elders in Yucatan. Not only Cherokee and Creeks, but other nations have oral traditions of coming up from Mexico and Central America, although some in the west came up the pacific Coast and Colorado River. The original version of this ceremony has not been done for centuries. As with the Stomp Dance, I regret that I can’t say more until authorized to do so.


It’s pretty simple: “Listen to each word at least 21 times before you attempt to say it.” That’s why is audio and video-based, rather than text-based. Could you read English before you learned to speak it as a child? NO! You listened to your parents, grandparents, and other “big people” over and over before you even tried to say it. Years later, when you started school, you learned to read. Yes, I know that new methods allow 2 year olds to begin reading, but if you’re anywhere near my age, that wasn’t the path available.


I’ve just re-recorded the first two teaching videos for the Lord’s Prayer, which are part of Lesson Four in Speak Cherokee. The sound was a little muddy before.

I’ll warn you now: part of the fourth test will be a clear recitation of the prayer. I’m working on the rest of the segments today and tomorrow. Log in to your account to see.


Today (Wednesday, September 08, 2010) is a new moon, the start of the Cherokee lunar month Udatanv, and the start of the 13-day Week of the Snake (Inadv). Snakes represent both healing and danger, so it’s a good time to re-examine the choices that come your way. The most colorful and attractive snakes are often the most poisonous. The first day of the Week give that Week its name, so today is a Snake day. The first day is influenced by the Hummingbird, an aggressive and fast little bird that represents new beginnings. They are so small and fast, they are almost invisible at times, as often are the influences that set things into motion in our lives. A good day to initiate new health and fitness practices, for example – not that there’s ever a bad day for that!

Recently, a good friend had major surgery. It was scheduled for the waxing moon on a Flint Knife (as in scalpel) day. Tradition says that had it been schedule for the waning moon, and on a River day, there may have been problems with loss of blood or internal bleeding. But of course, if we really believed those traditions, we’re be ignorant superstitious savages, wouldn’t we? My friend is making what her doctors consider a remarkable recovery. Perhaps the fact that surgery was scheduled for the most opportune day on the Calendar was just a coincidence. Or, perhaps our ancestors were on to something.

Until next time,
Text Color
Brian Wilkes

PS: Get the REAL story on 2012!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Cherokee Word Wakens Comatose Soldier!

The code word Gen. Petraeus used, "currahee" is from the old Alati or Lowland dialect, no longer spoken outside of old prayers and songs. in Middle and Overhill dialects, it's ᏊᏩᎯ (quu-wa-hi), and means "stand alone among others"... be an "Army of One" if that's what it takes. And some of you wonder WHY we spend years ...learning our ancient language?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

New Songs and Related Languages

Osiyo, nigada! Greetings, all!

I posted a video of the Tutelo-Saponi song, Mahk Jchi (Our Hearts).

It was released almost 20 years ago by Ulali, and for most people, it will be their only experience of a language that was spoken by tens of thousands between Virginia and Ontario. The same album, Robbie Robertson’s “Red Road Ensemble,” included Walela’s mis-titled “Cherokee Morning Song,” which for most people will be their only experience of the fading Tihanama language.

The 2011 Cherokee Calendar Package is now available for instant download. Besides showing how complex our traditional worldview was and is, I think it’s a great aid for seeing and using the Cherokee language in context. Simple questions each morning like “What day is it?” can be answered in Cherokee.

There’s also a new page of content in the course material, the first page of words commonly used in prayer. Soon, there will be a line-by-line slow instructional video on the Lord’s Prayer, and on some older prayers.

The three songs most associated with the Trail of Tears are [1] Amazing Grace, [2] Guide Us, Great Jehovah, and [3] One Drop of Blood. These songs will each be produced as videos: slow talking speed for teaching, and as slow singing speed for sing-along.

Donadagohvi, Until we're together again
Brian Wilkes

PS: Follow the Speak Cherokee group on Facebook! You can also follow me on Facebook.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

"Cosmic Convergence" Is Really "Double Hummingbird Reed"

Sunday, July 18 is a “Double Hummingbird Reed Day”

It’s both a
Reed Day and a Reed Week, and both the Week and Day also have Hummingbird influence.

Here’s why this symbolism is important:

In the creation story,
Sky Woman or Star Woman falls to Earth through a hole at the base of the Tree of Wisdom, or from the Pleiades (possibly two ways of saying the same thing). She is pregnant, and close to her delivery time.

The firstborn,
Flint Knife, has burst from her side his impatience to see the world. He walks away from his mortally wounded mother after he is born.

The second son,
Reed, is born the natural way, and stays with his mother to care for her, and follows her instructions for her burial. He is rewarded with the gift of medicine and vision, gifts denied to Flint Knife.

In the Cherokee version of this story,
Flint Knife is not evil, just inconsiderate and selfish. His wants and needs come first, just like a child.

Flint finds its purpose in being rigid, solid, hard. It fractures easily, and can be worked to an edge for blades.

Reed has rigidity also, but finds its true purpose in being hollow… as a flute, pipe stem, bubbling stick, blowgun.

Both Flint and Reed have their legitimate purposes and value. In the stories, Reed cannot accomplish one of his heroic works alone, and must call on Flint to join forces to defeat greater and greater opponents. An arrow can be made only of reed, but it penetrates farther with a flint arrowhead.

Flint Knife walks off, and builds a small house by the beach. He sees only himself, and if always depicted singly.

Reed, however, stays with his Mother, and meets the Four Sisters, one of whom becomes his wife. Reed sees the needs of others, and sees himself in constant relationship. Reed is usually depicted as a pair of reeds.

The pipe stem, the bubbling stick (a tube used to blow the healer’s breath into a medicine liquid), the sucking tube (a tube used to extract malicious influences from a patient) are all signs of the healer, and find their value in their emptiness. The scepter of authority carried by a chief was at one time made of reed. Some of the Lakotas speak of aspiring to be a “hollow bone,” a veiled reference to the stem of the first Pipe brought to them, which was fashioned from the thighbone of a buffalo.

The First Wind, Bird, or Influence of the Cherokee Calendar (there are 13) is the Hummingbird… small, fast, resourceful, and amazingly aggressive for its size. It is the initiator, the first volunteer. “One Reed” was the name of an important Mayan king, a reformer, who opposed the tyranny of “Flint Knife.” This may be the origin of the story, that this human pair was somehow reincarnations of the twins in the Creation story.

With both the Week and Day set at “One Reed” or “Hummingbird Reed”, part of the message is clear – this is the day to start a new cycle: don’t just pray for renewal, for reconciliation, for healing, for peace, but follow the example of the tiny hummingbird. Get up and Do something, fly as fast as possible, challenge adversaries much larger than yourself and drive them out of your life!

All the while, remain a hollow reed/bone, an open conduit of the Divine Will.
Raise your pipes, raise your flutes… if that doesn’t work, raise your bagpipes. It’s not going to be a “sit and reflect” day, it’s going to be a “get off the bench and into the game” day.


Cherokee words:

Reed, Ihiya ee-HEE-yah

Flint, Dawisgala dah-WISS-gah-LAH

Earth, Elohi ey-loh-HEE

Heaven, Galvlati gah-luhn-LAH-tee

Healing peace, Nvwadohiyada,

may you path be blessed,
Brian Wilkes

Reminder: the 2010 Cherokee Calendar should be available by October

Sunday, July 11, 2010

New Moon, Eclipse, Day of Twins...

Today (Sunday) is the New Moon and a solar eclipse, which unfortunately, will not be visible in the northern hemisphere.

The New Moon is the beginning of the Cherokee month, a day of quiet reflection, fasting, prayer and purification. Observant Cherokees will fast up to four days. This particular New Moon/Eclipse combination is associated with emotion changes, mood swings, clearing out the clutter of the past - time to send your 'baggage' to the auction house or trash bin!!

Think of New moon as a monthly sabbath instead of a weekly. In the dark of the new moon, you reflect on what you did in the previous month, and what you need to do in the coming month to be in harmony (dohi) with the order of things.. Divine Will, righteousness/justice. In the old days, the elders might remain "separate" for a day or two, putting aside the normal business of the world. Part of that was separating yourself from food gathering and preparation, which took a big chunk of time in the old days. It was also a gentle internal bathing. As you know, some ceremonies were preceded by purging. Fasting is a gentler way of cleaning our your innards.
Full moon, on the other hand, was party time because the lights were on all night! This was the time of the gatiyo or stomp dance ceremony in the Southeast, and widely regarded as the best time to conduct healing because of the additional dose of solar energy reflected from the moon.
Today is a “Twins” Day on the old Calendar. The Twins Flint Knife and Reed, the first Real People born on this earth after we came from our old home, represent many things. They represent choices, alternatives

In the creation story, the firstborn Flint Knife walks away from his mortally wounded mother after he is born. In his impatience to see the world, he has burst from her side. The second son, Reed, stays with her and follows her instructions for her burial. He is rewarded with the gift of medicine and vision, gifts denied to Flint Knife.

In the Cherokee version of this story, Flint Knife is not evil, just inconsiderate, His wants and needs come first, just like a child.

Our Mother the Earth is mortally wounded, and the arterial bleeding in the Gulf of Mexico will affect the entire world. No other species did that, just us.

Flint finds its purpose in being rigid, solid, hard. Reed has rigidity also, but finds its true purpose in being hollow… as a flute, pipe stem, bubbling stick, blowgun. Both have their legitimate purposes and value. I the stories, Reed must call on Flint, and they must join forces to defeat greater and greater opponents. An arrow can be made only of reed, but it penetrates farther with a flint arrowhead.

So today, as the moon covers the sun, which Twin are you? This is a day to examine the difference; both Reed and Flint also have their own days. Take a second look: foraged foods are wonderful, but so many have a nearly-identical twin that's poisonous. Take a third look at your decisions.

As many of you know, I've spent years working with the Cherokee Calendar, re-assembling it from bits and pieces of oral teachings. It forms a wonderful framework in the form of day-signs and week-signs for understanding at least part of the sweep of Cherokee oral tradition, especially creation stories.
I also offer birth date analyses based on the calendar. In ancient times, the elders would consider the implications of a child birth date when selecting a name. That tradition continues at least into the 20th century in some remote communities of East Tennessee, and possibly elsewhere.
I usually charge $97 for a report that averages 20 - 24 pages. If you follow the link above, I'll give you a $20 discount. AND, if you are getting this as a Father's Day gift, I'll guarantee you'll have it by next Friday as a PDF file -- IF you order by Tuesday. It takes HOURS for me to research and compile one of these, so it's a real bargain.

And if you're not already Speak Cherokee student, now's the time!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Why I Don’t Give or Translate Names

Q: How can I learn my Indian name?
A: Look at your driver’s license. Or birth certificate. Or ask your mother.


Although I’m mixed-blood with lineage from many nations, I identify as Cherokee, and do my best to adhere to Cherokee tradition. In Cherokee custom, a child receives its name between the fourth and seventh day, and is presented to the Seven Directions and the Creator, and introduced by that name. The name is chosen by the grandparents, who will also raise the child, based on several factors: family history, significance of the birth date, and any characteristics the child has shown in its few days of life. It may be a variation on the name of an ancestor. The name is given early, because infant mortality was a big problem, and if the child died without a name, it was believed that it would be harder for the parents to call him and be united in the next world.

A second name might also be given, a spirit or ceremonial name, spoken only in ceremonies, and rarely at that. The result is a “public name” which conceals the “private name.”
The only time that this name is changed, and rarely at that, is in the case of a life-threatening illness. A new name is an attempt to divert the illness or bad fortune away from the patient. “You came to kill Fred? Nope, no Fred around here, don’t know any Fred…”

Parents and grandparents give names. If you ask someone to give you a name, you are asking them to step into that role. You are accepting them as foster parents, and they are accepting you as a foster child. Are you willing to live out that commitment? What if you are given a name that means “Gives His Life For The People”… are you really willing to live up to that? Or will you go shopping for another name?


All languages are living things, which evolve. Names, like other phrases, fall in and out of fashion.

Let me give you an example from a European language, English. You meet someone who tells you he’s from England. He speaks English with the appropriate accent, so, it could be true.
He tells you his name is John. Still cool, John is a common name in England.

Then he tells you that, while he usually keeps it to himself, he’s actually 17th in succession to be king of England.

Alarms should go off now! There’s a procedural rule, well known by a certain class in the UK but not well known elsewhere, that no king may have the name John. There was a King John once, and he was such a disaster, the rule was made that there would never be another. No male child in succession for the throne is given the name John.

Names have histories and meanings. Just as the pretender John would be immediately spotted as a phony by any Brit of a certain status, Native people will spot someone using a name they made up, or given to them by somebody who didn’t understand naming protocols.

Among the Lakota, the eldest daughter was called Winona, more of a title than a name. This was adopted by some of their neighbors. I once went to a séance where a woman claimed to channel the spirit of a recently departed Ojibwe spiritual leader. Suspecting a high level of organic fertilizer, I asked “him” the name of his eldest daughter. “He” replied with the public name, Winona. I said “Not the name she’s known by today, the name YOU gave her as an infant.” The psychic was stumped. Then I asked a few simple questions – in Ojibwe. Strangely, after just a few months of death, the Elder had forgotten even the basics of his Native language.

As Adam and Jamie would say, “Busted!!”

Oh, the parallel Cherokee custom is to name the eldest daughter “Pearl.” She is the treasure of the family. The is originally “Pirl,” borrowed from the Tihanama language, and sometimes also spelled “Purl”.

I once described a prominent Elder named Redwing to another prominent Elder. The first thing the second Elder said was “Redwing isn’t a Cherokee name.” There was no accusation in her tone, just a flat statement. She was right; the man I described was Lumbee/Shawnee. I know another Redwing as well, a Mohawk; both circulate within the Cherokee mixed-blood community, but both were named by non-Cherokee relatives. In the same way, using a made-up name with no legacy in the community will immediately brand you as a pretender. And I’ve heard some doozies!

A woman at a powwow handed me a card that introduced her as “Princess Pocahontas Shining Moon Everlasting,” a medicine woman, healer, and sharmon (sic).

A Cherokee politician was given a belt buckle that appeared to say “Cherokee” in syllabary. The middle letter was actually a very similar letter with a different sound. Instead of “Cherokee”, it spelled out “chicken”. He wore it for months before anybody told him.


People have started giving themselves (or others) names based on baby name books or dictionaries. Unfortunately, they weren’t familiar enough with the language do this. I’ve met several named “Flying Eagle” and “Flying Hawk.” The word they used for “fly” was dvgv which does mean fly – but the insect, not the verb. An “eagle fly” or a “hawk fly” is the parasite that lives on the body of raptors; Cherokees have a four-day procedure to cleanse the bodies of these birds before any part can be used in ceremony, so that the diseases carried by these parasites don’t transfer to the humans. Perhaps their name really was intended to be “blood-sucking parasite.”


The name you have, your legal name, was probably given to you by your family. Why do you need another one? Oh, because yours doesn’t “sound Indian” enough.

My parents named me Brian Wilkes. Brian comes from the Gaelic for raven, Wilkes is a contracted diminutive for wolf. I could translate these into modern English as “Raven Little Wolf.” But if I did that, what would I be claiming, or trying to claim? That I’m suddenly more Indian, more traditional, more full of ancient wisdom than the person called Brian Wilkes? Or perhaps my drums and artwork and writing would sell better if they came from “Raven Little Wolf.”

The time for role-playing has long past. If I change my name, am I not suggesting that my parents got it wrong?

There are semantic layers in all languages, and because names are often drawn from older and historical levels of the language, even archaic variants, names can be a mine field. For example, Frank, Francis, Fran, Francesca and variants all come from a Germanic root word for “free”. If you go by Frank or Fran, fine. Francois or Francesca tell a slightly different story. But if your given name is Free, you were probably conceived at a Grateful Dead concert.


Even parents screw it up sometimes. I met one couple who named their daughter Dhyani after a Cherokee-ish author, thinking it was a Cherokee name. It’s actually a Sanskrit name; the author is a Buddhist, and the five Dhyani Buddhas figure prominently in that denomination.

Sometimes parent name a child from a baby names books. These are notoriously inaccurate on meanings. I met a black-Indian woman who named her daughter Kasha, thinking it was a Cherokee name. Since the adolescent girl was there, I restrained my outburst, which would have been “You named your daughter BUCKWHEAT??” The girl will learn the truth one day, and would have been much happier as Beverley or Betty. One can only but think of Moon Unit Zappa, who once dreamed of changing her name to Mary.

Sometimes Cherokee names are translated or transliterated. The name Asgayadihi has been transliterated as Outacity and translated as Mankiller.

If you weren’t given a Cherokee name by Day 7, it’s possible to have one later, But understand that you’re forming a parent/child bond with the Elder you approach. The name will be given in Cherokee. If it’s given to you in English, accept it as such… to attempt to translate it and use the translation instead shows disrespect.

Someone asked me to translate his name into Cherokee, and claimed he had been given the name in ceremony at Cherokee, NC. I asked who gave him the name. “The head shaman.” Say what? And what was his name “I don’t know everybody just called him ‘Grandfather.’” So, you took a name from somebody you didn’t know, whose name you don’t remember, while you were passing through Qualla on your motorcycle? Something’s definitely missing here.

Another time, an Elder from Cherokee gave a name to a friend’s daughter – in English. Mom asked me to translate it back to Cherokee. I explain why it was in appropriate for me to do that, and that she should try to get back in touch with the Elder who gave the name. The name was Wind Song. While I was going through various options depending on the true meaning, (A song carried in the wind, the wind sings, she sings into the wind, she sings with the wind), she was able to reach the Elder. The Cherokee name was one I might have translated to English as Bird Song rather than Wind Song! Had I given her any of my translations, I would have truly interfered.

My elder sister, who wasn’t given a Cherokee name, jokes that she really wants to be “Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring,” after a puppet on the old Howdy Doody show.


You really want an Indian name? Very simple: do something embarrassing in front of an Indian. You may have pictured yourself as “Grandmother Medicine Eagle Spirit Keeper”, but one moment of flatulence and you’ll be stuck with “Queen Fart-zina” for the rest of your natural life. Eventually, it will even be said in front of you.

Some nicknames will be complimentary, but remember that they are only nicknames. The Creeks and Seminoles in Florida called me Halpattah Hadjo, “Alligator Warrior”, after an incident with a gator when I was a teenager. My Anglo friends simply called me “Gator.” One of my Seminole teachers now calls me “Speaker of Languages” from my humble attempts to learn and teach.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “If I re-name a sheep’s tail a ‘leg’, how many legs does a sheep have? FOUR! Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”

Changing the label on a bottle doesn’t change the contents. If you want to gain respect in the Native community, improve the contents.

Brian Wilkes

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Full Moon, New Cycle, Dying Computer


Sorry not to have been in touch more, but I've been having computer problems. My 5 year old Dell is finally giving up. Each day is an adventure, as it alternately forgets how to open MS Office, play and audio or video, or connect to the Internet. Only several restarts bring back it's memory. This makes it difficult to create the new video and audio instructionals for Lesson 4. But it's coming along.

Today is a full moon, AND the start of another 260 day cycle on the old Calendar. A great time for new beginnings. This evening, I'll take part in a healing ceremony for someone I haven't seen in about 12 years. If you have someone in need, this is a very good time to send them prayers, and whatever other resources you have.

I've been asked about [1] giving or translating names for people, [2] doing a special for Fathers' Day and I did for Mothers' Day on the Calendar Calculations and Analysis, [3] more on the strange flag I showed last month, and hint that it refers to Cherokee origins, [4] the medicinal garden booklet I mentioned (most of you said you DID want to have something like that).

All of that and more coming, computer spirits willing and the Creeks don't rise. Until then, all the best!


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Free People, and How Not To Be a Wannabee, Part 1

This does NOT mean “people who talk funny,” it means “The free people.” This flag – which is NOT a flag of any Cherokee community - ties in with a vision and oral tradition shared with me in 1998 by medicine elders in Peru. It also ties in with current DNA research, and with written records kept by Keetoowahs in Oklahoma. I’ll bring more of it out over the next weeks.

As some of you know, I’ve face health challenges including surgeries and hospitalization this year. This has delayed me from getting more content up on the Speak Cherokee web site, but be assured that’s my top priority. If you’re a student and have sent me a question that I haven’t answered, please send it again.

Some time ago I asked the members of this mailing list WHY you want to learn the language. Many answers amounted to “Because I AM Cherokee,” or “Because it’s part of my ancestry and heritage.” That’s fine, but is that really a reason that will make you go back to the course material over and over again when you’re frustrated at your lack of progress? Less than 10% of the people who sign up for the free list ever go on to subscribe to the classes. Of those, only a minority ever complete the tests. I’d love to bring out improvements such as a Cherokee-language-only chat room, but I can’t afford do it for a handful of people.

How Not To Be A Wannabee, Lesson 1:

I knew someone who grew up in Kenya, which was then a colony in British East Africa. When speaking English he called it “KEEN-ya,” as the British called the colony, but while speaking Kikuyu he pronounced it “KENN-ya.” He did it so automatically, he wasn’t even aware that he was making the distinction until it was brought to his attention. That’s simply the way each community and each language in Kenya handled it. (NOTE: since independence, the official pronunciation is KENN-ya in every language, so some of you younger people may have never heard it pronounced KEEN-ya)

Cherokee speakers use the word “Tsalagi” or “Jalagi” only when speaking that language. When speaking English they say “Cherokee”. If somebody asks what nation you’re from and you answer Tsalagi rather than Cherokee, expect to be placed in the wannabee column. You’re showing off that you know the word, but you’re not using it as a native speaker would.

More to come!
Brian Wilkes

Thursday, April 15, 2010

New Moon, Flower Day --- Dandelions!

Osiyo, nigada!

Thursday was the new moon, a day that some still mark with fasting and reflection. Friday is a Flower Day, the final day of the 20-day cycle, which symbolically contains the seeds of the next 20 days. Have you given any thought to how your life will change over the 20 days? For example, will you make a serious commitment to learn the Cherokee language?

Kawoni (April) is the month of fertility, and the humble dandelion, the herald of spring, has already come and gone in some areas. If dandelions in your area have already gone to seed and floated away, you need to pick the greens before they become bitter, and dry the roots. It’s one of the most nutrient dense foods in the world, and almost zero-calorie.

Dandelion was welcomed by many of the First Nations as the first healer of spring, quickly replacing the nutrients that had been missing over a winter with little fresh produce. I had heard story this years ago from Mohegan and Delawares, so I researched the Cherokee word. Can’t find one! A little more research told me why: dandelions are not native to North America, they were introduced by settlers as a food source! The wind has spread them across the land, where they are available to any with the work ethic to pick or dig them. Astonishing that we live in a nation with so much surplus food, some people actually poison a food source as weeds that interrupt the pattern of their lawns.

In March, our local Native American Church dedicated a medicinal garden. I began thinking of what plants the ancestors used, to develop that information as a lesson. We’ll begin with that vocabulary in the lessons soon. If I get enough response, we may also create a download of common medicinal plants with Cherokee names and uses. If that sounds like something you want, just email me and say “I want the Cherokee medicinal plants download.”

Friday, April 9, 2010

Why You Can't Find "Wendeyaho" in a Cherokee Dictionary

Q: I hear people singing something they call the "Cherokee Morning Song," but none of the words appear in my Cherokee dictionary.

A: The song, popularized by Walela, is legitimate. It was sung by women only as part of the morning prayers, facing the rising sun, welcoming the new day. The men sang a different song that could be blended or even done as a "round" with the women's song; I've heard it exactly once.

I've spoken to Elders who actually remember hearing it sung in the mornings. However, the words are NOT Cherokee. Opinion differs on whether the words are:

[1] Saponi, a Siouan language of the Virginia-Carolina panhandle,

[2] one of the Algonquin languages of the Virginia/Ohio Valley, such as Delaware, Shawnee or Mattaponi, or

[3] Tihanama, a linguistic isolate spoken by a nomadic trading group that migrated annually from lower Michigan to the Florida Panhandle.

[4] Yet another highly dubious source calls it "ancient Cherokee," which is doubtful. The same source claims that there were actually over 30 Cherokee clans.

The only research on it by recognized academics points to Tihanama. According to one of the remaining fluent speakers, the phrase means “Our hearts (spirits) are strong.” There is no evidence for the claim often repeated on the Internet that it means “I am of the Great Spirit, aho.”

One Elder told us the song was actually brought by "the help," those who tended fields for the Cherokee landowners. These could have been refugees from any of the groups mentioned, who sought refuge in the Cherokee highlands after the destruction of the coastal and lowland nations. It could also refer to the Tihanama, who often hired out as seasonal farm labor. That would also explain why the Coolidge sisters and my own sources remember hearing it in the mountain communities of eastern Tennessee and Kentucky, in areas along the migratory route of the Tihanama.

Over the years, it has been adopted by many Cherokees, especially in the eastern portions of Tennessee and Kentucky. So despite its pedigree and linguistics, it has become a Cherokee song. Because of the song's popularity, the phrase may survive the impending demise of the Tihanama language.

Q: But I've been to presentations where Native elders have sung and even taught the song. Why would they do that?

A: Because [1] it's a pretty song, [2] thanks to the recordings, people may already be familiar with it, [3] it's simple enough for beginners to learn, and [4] the presenter doesn't speak Cherokee or know any real Cherokee prayer songs.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Someone ACED Test Three! Study Cherokee and Help the Elders


We have a few landmarks to celebrate! First, this mailing list has passed the 700 mark. Second, Eve Brown of Washington State is the first person to attempt Test 3 – and she aced it! She says it’s a matter of returning to a “beginner’s mind” and just replaying the audio and video instructional. As we say in Cherokee, “Tsalagi gayotli goliga” – I speak Cherokee like a child.

Today is a Turtle (Dagasi) day on the old Calendar, the first day of the cycle of twenty. It’s a day of new beginnings, and the last Turtle day before spring begins.

Is there a venture you’ve been thinking of starting? Let me suggest enrolling in Speak Cherokee Level 1. For all you begin in March, your first month’s tuition ($20) will be donated to heating assistance for the Lakota elders at Wounded Knee, where a brutal winter has brought increased hardship. So far, two of you on this list have done that, which means $40 in heating assistance. If you ever needed another incentive to begin to study the Cherokee language (and tell the truth, you DO claim to be Cherokee at powwow time, don’t you?) you owe it to yourself and your children to become more familiar with the language.

In the coming weeks, I hope to offer some insights into one of the great luminaries of the efforts to renew the Cherokee language and culture, the late Chief Hastings Shade, who passed in February after decades of fragile health. I was blessed to spend a few days with Chief Shade in Tahlequah in 2002, and I’ll share some of what I learned… definitely a major awakening for me!
As Chief Wilma Mankiller prepares to make her crossing, give a thought to the elders who have crossed in the last few years. Who stands up to take their place?

You can’t turn back the clock and be raised in the traditional culture, but you CAN at least study and use the beautiful and multi-layered Cherokee language.

Nvwadohiyada, peace and healing to you,
Brian Wilkes

PS: Some of you have asked for more content of a spiritual nature, such as prayers. I will begin creating that content, starting with instructional videos for the Lord’s Prayer and a few shorter prayers.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Chief Wilma Prepares to Cross

As many of you have already heard, former Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Wilma Pearl Mankiller has been diagnoses with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Since it's been 15 years since she left office (1985-1995), many younger people know her as a speaker, author, and Beloved Woman, but appearing as a frail survivor. In her younger days growing up in San Francisco, she was an activist, and the photo I chose is from the early 1970's, when she was youthful, energetic, and about 27.

I had the good fortune to meet Chief Mankiller at the 2000 "Flames of Hope" Gala, the annual fundraiser for the American Indian College Fund. She had just endured a second kidney transplant. The first transplant, necessitated by a near-fatal car crash, had been destroyed by chemotherapy when she was first diagnosed with cancer. She was gracious, but looked very tired.

She has led a full life, and sends this statement:

“I decided to issue this statement because I want my family and friends to know that I am mentally and spiritually prepared for this journey; a journey that all human beings will take at one time or another. I learned a long time ago that I can’t control the challenges the Creator sends my way but I can control the way I think about them and deal with them. On balance, I have been blessed with an extraordinarily rich and wonderful life, filled with incredible experiences. And I am grateful to have a support team composed of loving family and friends. I will be spending my time with my family and close friends and engaging in activities I enjoy. It’s been my privilege to meet and be touched by thousands of people in my life and I regret not being able to deliver this message personally to so many of you. If anyone wants to send a message to me, it is best to email me at”

Saturday, February 27, 2010


As we approach the Sixth World, the prophetic increase in earthquakes and other natural disasters is being fulfilled. It’s hard to watch coverage of the devastation in Haiti and now Chile without feeling the urge to open our wallets, and the wish that we had bigger wallets and deeper pockets.

But there’s been a quieter devastation this winter in the Lakota country, where winter storms have knocked out electric, water treatment plants, plumbing, and have made re-supply difficult. Anyone who has experienced a Dakota winter can imagine how bad it might get if there was also no heat.

The Elders at Wounded Knee still endure brutal winter conditions, often in woefully sub-standard housing. Losing heat, even for a few days, is life-threatening.

I hope your pockets are deep enough to help the victims in Haiti and Chile. Mine aren’t, so I’ve concentrated my efforts on helping the Elders at Pine Ridge.


For each new or returning student who signs up in March, your first month subscription/tuition fee of $20 will go to heating assistance. Other than the PayPal service charge, ALL of it will go for heating, without any overhead or “management” charges. I’m dealing with people there whom I know personally.

If you’ve been putting off beginning to learn the Cherokee language, or if you’re a former student who’s been thinking of coming back, now you can get started and know that your tuition will help some of our cousins who are in greatest need right now, right here in the United States.

Before he passed the late ceremonial chief Frank Fools Crow left his pipe and part of his regalia to a Cherokee (mis-identified in some books as a white man), with the prayer that this would start the process of healing the centuries-old animosity between our peoples. This is you chance to be part of that healing, and also to begin your part of the effort to keep our language alive and vibrant. You will still get a seven-day free trial.

So there’s no time like the present: Honor our Ancestors, Speak our Language, and Help our cousins survive a cruel winter.

Nvwadohiyada, healing peace to you,

Brian Wilkes

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Redbird Begins Its Ascent From the Underworld Today

Sun's Daughter, Venus, has completed her descent in the form of the Great Rabbit (Noquis'equa) and now begins her ascent from the Underworld as the Redbird (Dotsuwa), rescued by the Twins (Dinitliwa), who had accidentally killed her. On the old Calendar, today is also a Twins Day, when the opposite unite to fulfill a greater purpose. The Redbird is a promise to us that Spring will return.

This is a remnant of a ceremonial cycle brought north by Cherokee ancestors from the Mayan communities of the south.

The old Calendar has been kept in isolated mountain communities in Eastern Tennessee and Kentucky, and the Carolina panhandle, but it is almost gone. It’s a complicated, multi-layered system that had little advantage in the modern technological world, where linear rather than cyclical thought dominates. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s completely gone in another generation.

Sometimes cultural features like a calendar or a custom fade away because it’s just their time. We could call it cultural Darwinism… it’s just time for something to go extinct. Preventing that extinction will take a good deal of sweat.

Who wants to help?

Brian Wilkes

Cherokee Language Immersion Class, Eastern Dialect, in July

One reason I created is to reverse or at least slow down the decline in the use of the Cherokee language. If the basics are in the heart and minds and mouths of a greater and greater number of people, there’s a better chance of cultural survival.

If you’ve been on the list for a while, you know I offer Natural Method instruction as opposed to Classical Method (traditional classroom instruction). We start by hearing and speaking the language, not by analyzing grammar or written tests. We include the syllabary as a reference for those who are more visually oriented, but we don’t dwell on it. A Classical Method class might start with everyone reciting and even memorizing the syllabary. Natural Method starts with hearing words and phrases in context, often with a visual link, such as a photo. We I was getting my education degree almost 40 years ago, the apostles of Natural Method, mostly French and Danes, were touring the colleges trying to convince language departments to at least include NM in the curriculum.

I’m happy to see that the Museum of the Cherokee Indian is following that course with more recent improvements to the method.

The Cherokee language immersion class will be offered July 20 – 31, 2009. This ten-day class will teach conversational Cherokee language using the Total Physical Response Method and the Rassius Method developed at Darmouth. Open to the general public ages 16 and up, the class costs $500. For information, contact Bo Taylor at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian by phone at 1-828-497-3481 or by email at To register and pay, contact Sharon Littlejohn by phone or by email at

Previous immersion classes have been available to tribal members only. A friend who attended reports “It’s wonderful and amazing!”

The ten-day class focuses on immersing participants in Cherokee language through classroom activities, interaction with elders, and field trips. Participants will be responsible for their own room and board.

Since I’m dedicated to the preservation and promotion and Cherokee culture, I’m going to do whatever I can to be there: tuition, ten days lost income, plus ten days room and board. Realistically, it will cost me about $2,000. I encourage all of you to go or at least investigate going.

Brian Wilkes