Posted by: birdmaddgirl | 29 November 2009


so i got a package in the mail this weekend from my grandmother – a small packet of photocopies and two cds on learning the Cherokee language. i haven’t listened to the discs yet, but just having them sitting on my desk… i’m intimidated and charged.

the syllabary is elegant (it looks like this) – a calligraphy of its own. history hangs heavy on it – a written standard created for the express purpose of proving to European-Americans that the Cherokee were a “civilized” tribe. i imagine the careful work of casting these letters in lead so that the Cherokee language newspaper, The Cherokee Phoenix, could be published starting in the 1820s.

the Cherokee language, also called Tsalagi. a source of unification and division in so many intended and unintended ways. a language that helps maintain ancestral pride and heritage, holds keys to learnings from centuries of interaction with the world. but also a way to divide, an attempt historically to set the Cherokee off as ‘acceptable,’ as less native than other natives. a mixed blessing.

and yet a blessing. a tangible achievement – to have ownership of our language, its orthography determined from within. a point of real pride for a denigrated people.

this will be my second non-Western language learning foray (i studied Japanese for a year in high school, but didn’t keep it up). i’m excited to learn the shapes of the sounds, physically and aurally. this is a path to those who have come before.

2010 is looking like it will be the year of language. my intentions for next year: become TEFL certified, study Spanish, Welsh, and Cherokee.


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