Revitalization of the Cherokee Language
NSU to host panel on women’s contributions to the revitalization of the Cherokee language
TAHLEQUAH — During this year’s American Indian Heritage Month and the 200th anniversary of the Cherokee Syllabary, Northeastern State University will host a panel discussion to highlight women's contributions to the revitalization of the Cherokee language.
The discussion, titled “Ahyoka's Legacy: The Contributions of Women in Cherokee Language Revitalization,” will explore Ahyoka's role in helping her father Sequoyah develop the Cherokee Syllabry. It will also examine the roles various Cherokee women have played throughout history to preserve the language.
The panel discussion will be livestreamed on the NSU Center for Women’s Studies Facebook page at 6 p.m. on Nov. 9. Panelists will include Cherokee Master Speaker Cora Flute, Cherokee Language Apprentice Colleen Daughtery, and Curriculum Specialist Lauren Hummingbird.
Supervisor of the Cherokee Language Master/Apprentice Program and NSU alumna Kristen Thomas will moderate. Thomas graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Cherokee Cultural Studies and a Master of Science in Higher Educational Leadership. She has been with the Cherokee language programs in Cherokee Nation for 18 years. The event is sponsored by the Center for Women’s Studies and the Center for Tribal Studies.
“Women often serve as conduits for cultural preservation in many cultures, whether we are talking about language, cultural practices, or even foodways,” Dr. Suzanne Farmer, associate professor of history at NSU and director of the Center for Women’s Studies said. “When you look at work in these areas, you will see women on the frontlines but they are not often celebrated for their roles in cultural preservation or revitalization.”
She added the NSU Center for Women’s Studies wants to highlight the important work and roles these women play in maintaining traditional cultural practices and preserving languages.
Dr. Candessa Tehee, associate professor in Cherokee and Indigenous Studies, said Ahyoka was Sequoyah’s first student and daughter. Tehee said Sequoyah was often isolated which made people suspicious of him and as a result he was put on trial. During the trial, Tehee said Sequoyah claimed he had developed a writing system and to prove it Ahyoka was brought in to demonstrate it.
Tehee said it took two demonstrations for them to convince skeptics of Sequoyah’s invention and it was eventually adopted as the system of writing for Cherokee and he was celebrated.
“Yet, without Ahyoka, Sequoyah might have been put to death, and his brilliant invention would have died with him,” Tehee said. “Men's contributions are often remembered and celebrated in isolation from the context in which they occurred. This panel is a small reminder that Cherokee language revitalization is an expansive undertaking that requires all people. “
The panel discussion is one of a series of events NSU has planned for American Indian Heritage Month this year.
Other discussions planned includes “Loyal Countrywomen: Cherokee Female Seminary Alumnae” on Nov. 17 at 10:30 a.m. in room 105 of the John Vaughn Library.
NSU officials have also partnered with the Oklahoma Arts Council to present the Celebration of Artwork Cherokees Series throughout the month of November. The series will feature art discussions and demonstrations.
Tehee’s weaving demonstration will take place on Nov. 16. She will give a short presentation in UC 222 from 11 to 11:30 a.m., then move to the basement of the UC for the weaving demonstration until 1 p.m. Individuals are welcome to come and go during the demonstration.
Also, the public is invited to get a taste of Cherokee cuisine at a traditional food demonstration with United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee citizen Charlotte Kingfisher-Wolfe on Nov. 18 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the NSU Baptist Collegiate Ministry building.
Kingfisher-Wolfe will show attendees how to make wishi, a type of mushroom, harvested and prepared by many Cherokees. She will go over the harvesting process and how she prepares them. Lunch will be served at this event on a first come, first serve basis.
Events are also planned at the Muskogee and Broken Arrow campuses.
At the Muskogee campus, there will be a corn bead necklace workshop on Nov. 10 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Supplies will be provided. There will also be a film screening of the film “Gather” in the annex at the Broken Arrow campus and the Webb Auditorium in Tahlequah on Nov. 11 at 6 p.m.
In addition, a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women display in the NSU Broken Arrow library is available for viewing throughout the entire month of November. Cherokee artist Jennifer Thiessen created the display.
For more information about the various events planned at NSU for American Indian Heritage
Month contact the Center for Tribal Studies at 918-444-4350 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For a full list of events visit offices.nsuok.edu/