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History

The Cherokee language, spoken fluently today by approximately 7000 people primarily in Oklahoma and North Carolina, is a rich and beautiful language. In terms of its linguistic and grammatical properties, Cherokee has many interesting features that allow for exacting description and for contextual humor that erupts whenever speakers come together. Linguists classify Cherokee as a member of the Iroquoian family of languages, which includes languages such as Mohawk, Cayuga, Oneida and Seneca. While the other members of the Iroquoian family are all located in the Northeastern US/Southeastern Canada, Cherokee alone is situated in the Southeastern US. The late Floyd Lounsbury, a linguist who studied Iroquoian languages, estimated that Cherokee parted ways from the others approximately 3000-3500 years ago.

Cherokee is undergoing a renaissance in many communities and the main Cherokee nations are developing immersion schools, community programs and university programs that are aimed at revitalizing this beautiful language and ensuring that it thrives through the next generations. The immersion children are the first new fluent speakers to emerge in over a generation.