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