Cherokee tribes work to keep language alive for new generations

The New Kituwah Academy in North Carolina serves a language immersion school for young members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Photo from Vermont Timber Works

The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina are working to preserve the Cherokee language for future generations.

Only about 3,000 Cherokee Nation citizens speak the language on a regular basis, language program manager Roy Boney Jr. told The Wall Street Journal. That's less than 1 percent of the tribal population.

“No one under 50 is fluent in Cherokee anymore,” Boney told the paper.

The Eastern Band, a much-smaller tribe, counts upwards of 400 fluent speakers, or less than 3 percent of the population. A successful immersion school, though, is helping to turn those numbers around and a tribal member and a tribal employee have developed software to teach the language to others.

“If their methods were so good, why do we keep losing the language?” tribal member John Standingdeer Jr. told The Journal, referring to other methods that he believes have failed.

Get the Story:
Cherokee Look for Ways to Save Their Dying Language (The Wall Street Journal 3/1)

Related Stories
Film documents Eastern Cherokee efforts to preserve language (04/07)
Eastern Cherokees work to teach language to new generations (03/25)

Join the Conversation