The Cherokee Nation is establishing a new language department that will directly oversee the tribe’s Cherokee Immersion School, a team of translators and the Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program. The new department will focus on language preservation and perpetuation, and generating more proficient second-language Cherokee speakers.
Howard Paden, a Sequoyah County native and the tribe’s current Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program manager, has been named as the executive director of the tribe’s new language department. Wyman Kirk has also been named administrator of the Cherokee Immersion School, and Jeromie Hammer has been named as principal.
All three are Cherokee Nation citizens and each have been learning the Cherokee language for at least two decades.
“Unfortunately, we’re losing upwards of a hundred fluent Cherokee speakers a year,” Paden said. “We recently lost seven alone in one month, three of them from COVID-19. We’re at a crossroads, so we must make language our priority and get our citizens behind this critical effort to continue saving our language. I believe the Cherokee Nation and Chief Hoskin are putting all of the pieces into place to help us teach new generations of Cherokee speakers how to use and pass along this beautiful tradition.” As administrator of the Cherokee Immersion School, Kirk will lead the Immersion School being responsible for the development, implementation, supervision and evaluation of educational and student services.