Education

UKB elder remains one of last mono-lingual Cherokee speakers





An 83-year-old member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma is one of the last mono-lingual speakers of the Cherokee language.

Mack Vann grew up in a predominantly Cherokee community. He learned some English in school but stopped using it after he dropped out at a young age.

“Everybody is just changing their ways and not really concentrating on our culture,” Vann told the Associated Press through a translator.

The Cherokee Nation is reaching out to people like Vann in hopes of preserving the language for future generations. About 50 mono-lingual Cherokee speakers live in eastern Oklahoma.

"They’re living treasures and it’s folks like him we bring in to pick their brains and say, ‘OK, what do you call the white oak tree? What do you call the other medicine trees? What’s the Cherokee word for them? What’s the old word for them?’ Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker told the AP.

Get the Story:
Tribes draw knowledge from monolingual speakers (AP 4/8)