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”