Students Continue Cherokee Tradition of Merging Language and Technology

Visit the Facebook page for the Cherokee Nation’s Sequoyah Schools and you’ll see posts such as “Karaoke and Dance Party!!! Set for October 13th in the old gym from 7:00 pm- 9:00 pm” and “Congratulations to the Sequoyah Academic Team for defeating Sallisaw in sudden death!” Students in the school system this year have more enduring reasons to celebrate though. This fall the school expanded its Cherokee language immersion school to include sixth-grade. The 8 students in this year’s cohort will be the first to graduate from the tribe’s Immersion School.

All classes at the Immersion School are taught entirely in Cherokee, including written portions of the classes. The Cherokee language has a rich history of written text, stemming from tribal member Sequoyah’s (the namesake of Sequoyah Schools) development of the Cherokee syllabary in 1821. The subsequent tribal purchase of a printing press – cutting edge technology for the time – enabled the tribe to publish the first ever Native American newspaper in English and Cherokee.

The Immersion School is continuing the Cherokee tradition of using technology to promote the Cherokee language. According to a press release put out by the tribe, students are thriving with the help of technological advances from Apple and Google that enable users to search, read and type in Cherokee. Each of the students is learning with the aid of iPhones and Mac computers that the students take home with them. Parents have reported that while their children have been getting language help from elders, the children have also been sharing their own knowledge by teaching their older relatives how to use iPhones and Mac computers.

For more information on the Immersion School see the press release put out by the Cherokee Nation here.

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