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.
Follow us on Facebook

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