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Native Languages of the Americas: Cherokee (Tsalagi)

Language: Cherokee--more properly spelled Tsalagi--is an Iroquoian language with an innovative written syllabary invented by a Native Cherokee scholar. 22,000 people speak the Cherokee language today, primarily in Oklahoma and North Carolina. Though it is one of the healthier Indian languages of North America and the one in which the most literature has been published, the Cherokee language is still in imperiled condition because of government policies as late as the fifties which enforced the removal of Cherokee children from Cherokee-speaking homes, reducing the number of young Cherokees being raised bilingually from 75% to less than 5% today.

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People: 'Cherokee' is Creek for 'people with another language'. (It's amazing how white settlers always managed to learn another tribe's name for any group of Indians. They learned the Creek word for the Cherokee tribe, but not the Creek word for themselves.) Anyway, our original name for ourselves was Aniyunwiya, but Cherokee is fine too (though we say it Tsalagi). There are 350,000 Cherokee people today, mostly in Oklahoma and North Carolina.

History: The best-known episode in Cherokee history was also the worst: the Trail of Tears, which was the forced relocation of the Native Cherokee Indians from their ancestral home in the southeast to Oklahoma. The Cherokee people were an urban, Christian, agricultural, intermarried society who had supported the United States against other tribes. In the end this was all for nothing. Though prominent Americans like Davy Crockett and Daniel Webster spoke against Removal, and though the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional, President Andrew Jackson sent in the army. Fifteen to twenty thousand Cherokee Indians (along with Choctaw, Creek, and other tribes) were rounded up and herded to Oklahoma in the winter of 1838-1839. Driven from their homes without being allowed to collect their possessions first, even their shoes, the Cherokees were no better equipped for an 800-mile forced march than people today would be. Between four and eight thousand Cherokee people died of exposure, starvation, disease, and exhaustion along the Trail of Tears. If you understand this, both the extent to which the Cherokees had adopted American standards of civilization before the Removal and the ultimate futility of it, you will go a long way towards understanding the Cherokee mentality today and also the attitudes of other Indian peoples towards us.

Names: The original tribal name of the Cherokees is Aniyunwiya (also spelled Aniyvwiya, Ahniyvwiya, Aniyuwiya, or Yunwiya.) Alternate spellings of "Cherokee" include Tsalagi, Tsa-la-gi, Jalagi, Chalaque, Cheroqui, Cheraqui, Tsa'lagi', Tsa'ragi', and Tslagi. The Cherokee language is called Tsalagi Gawonihisdi.

Cherokee Language Resources
Cherokee language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Cherokee Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Cherokee Indians past and present.

Cherokee Indians Fact Sheet
Our answers to frequently asked questions about the Cherokees.

Cherokee Legends
Introduction to the mythology of the Cherokee Indian people.

Cherokee Language Resources

Our Online Cherokee Language Materials

Cherokee Vocabulary:
    List of vocabulary words in the Cherokee language, with comparison to words in other Iroquoian languages.
Cherokee Pronunciation Guide:
    How to pronounce Cherokee Indian words.
Cherokee Alphabet:
    Introduction to the Cherokee writing system for beginners.
Cherokee Animal Words:
    Picture glossary of animal words in the Cherokee language.
Cherokee Body Parts:
    Online and printable worksheets showing parts of the body in the Cherokee language.
Cherokee Colors:
    Worksheet showing color words in the Cherokee language.
Cherokee Numbers:
    Learn to count in the Cherokee language.
Cherokee Animate Nouns:
    Language lesson on Cherokee animate and inanimate nouns.
Cherokee Possession:
    Language lesson on the use of Cherokee possessive prefixes.

Cherokee Dictionaries and Language Books for Sale
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Introduction to Cherokee:
    Good Cherokee language learning course for sale (including both textbook and audio CD.)
Cherokee-English Dictionary * New English-Cherokee Dictionary:
    Two excellent Cherokee dictionaries. (The first one also includes an overview of Cherokee grammar.)
Cherokee Lessons * Beginning Cherokee:
    Two useful Cherokee textbooks for sale.
Let's Learn Cherokee Syllabary:
    Engaging workbook for learning to read and write the Cherokee language.
Cherokee Western Dialect Language Program:
    CD audiobook of native Cherokee speakers introducing the sounds and words of their language.
Native American Dictionaries:
    Cherokee and other American Indian dictionaries for sale.

Cherokee Language Community and Tools

Joan Touzet's Tsalagi Font * Cherokee FIGlet Font:
    Cherokee fonts for free download.
Tsulehisanvhi Cherokee Language Text Editor:
    Open-source Windows program for free download.
Cherokee Nation Language Services:
    Cherokee classes, translations, and language services from the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.
Learning the Cherokee Language:
    Bibliography of Cherokee language learning materials.
Noksi Press:
    Publishing books about Cherokee language and culture and contemporary Native American issues.
White Bear Publishing:
    Publishing Cherokee books in Tsalagi and English.

Cherokee Language Lessons and Linguistic Descriptions

Cherokee Language Lesson * Learning Cherokee * Tsalagi Tutor * Tsalagi Reading Lessons: * How to Speak Cherokee:
    Online Cherokee language lessons.
History of the Cherokee Language: * Raven's Tsalagi Resources * Cherokee Language History:
    Introductions to the Tsalagi language.
Cherokee Language Home Page:
    Tsalagi language overview and texts from the Cherokee Observer.
Tsalagi List * Ani Tsalagi Language:
    Online Cherokee study groups.
Museum of the Cherokee Indian:
    The Cherokee Indian museum offers free Tsalagi lessons via email.
NDNTV Cherokee Podcasts:
    XML content feed where you can find Cherokee language lessons and videos.
Hello Oklahoma: Cherokee Tribe:
    Cherokee language phrases, pronunciation, and sample text.
Freelang Cherokee Dictionary:
    Free downloadable wordlist of the Cherokee language.
Cherokee Language:
    General description of Cherokee from the Encyclopedia of North American Indians.
William Pulte:
    Homepage of linguist William Pulte, with Cherokee language information and a bibliography.
Cherokee Script:
    Cherokee writing system and sample text.
Cherokee Syllabary * Cherokee Alphabet * Cherokee Syllabary * Cherokee Pronunciation:
    Cherokee Alphabet and Pronunciation Guide * Sequoyah's Cherokee Syllabary:
    Symbols of the Cherokee syllabary, with English pronunciation guide.
Original Cherokee Syllabary:
    Scanned image of Sequoyah's original Tsalagi syllabary.
Cherokee Indian Language * Cherokee Orthography * Cherokee Writing Systems * Cherokee Phonology:
    Cherokee Grammar * Cherokee Text * Cherokee Story:
    Scanned-in Cherokee language materials from the Rose tta Project.
Basic Words in Cherokee:
    Downloads of MP3 files of spoken Cherokee words.
Language Museum: Cherokees:
    Part of a Cherokee story written in syllabary, with translation.
Say Hello in Cherokee:
    Site aimed at children, using audio files to teach a Cherokee greeting.
The Cherokee Messenger:
    Quarterly journal of Cherokee literature in Tsalagi and English.
The Giant Inchworm:
    A glossed Cherokee story.
Cherokee Proposal:
    Suggestion for improving the Tsalagi syllabary with diacritics to eliminate ambiguity.
Cherokee and Cree Writing Systems:
    Essay arguing that Cree and Cherokee syllabaries predated European conquest.
Lord's Prayer in Cherokee * Cherokees Hymns:
    Christian prayers translated into the Cherokee Indian language.
Children Singing Peace Around the World:
    Cherokee translation of a children's peace song.
Cherokee Language Tree:
    Theories about Cherokee's language relationships compiled by Linguist List.
Cherokee Language Structures:
    Cherokee linguistic profile and academic bibliography.
White Dove's Cherokee Dictionary:
    Cherokee-English and English-Cherokee dictionary, with syllabary script.
Tsalagi (Cherokee) Language:
    Alphabetical English-Cherokee glossary.
English-Cherokee Words * Tsalagi Words * Tsalagi Lexicon * Cherokee Dictionaries * Cherokee Animal Words:
    Cherokee wordlists organized alphabetically and by topic.
English-Cherokee Dictionary:
    Online Cherokee translator.
Cherokee Vocabulary Words:
    Small Cherokee phrasebook and months of the year.
Cherokee Images: Vocabulary:
    Illustrated Cherokee Indian words.
Cherokee Language Dictionary:
    Unfinished Cherokee glossary.

Cherokee Language Preservation and Usage

The Echota Cherokee Language:
    Tsalagi language revival among the Echota Cherokee tribe.
Cherokee Images: Language:
    Native language endangerment and the Cherokee language.
Ethnologue: Cherokee:
    Demographic information about the Cherokee Indians and their language.

Cherokee Names

Eastern Cherokee Names:
    Names of Eastern Cherokee Indians in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, together with their meanings.
Tsalagi Names:
    Cherokee names, both traditional and modern, and their pronunciation.
Cherokee Naming:
    Recent Cherokee baby naming practices.
Native American Cherokee Names:
    Explanation about translated Cherokee names.
Cherokee Names:
    How to spell English names using the Cherokee syllabary.
Native American Dog Names:
    Names for dogs and other pets in Cherokee.

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Additional Resources, Links, and References

  Cherokee References:
  Bibliography of Cherokee language-learning materials.
  Wikipedia: Cherokee: * Britannica: Cherokee Language:
  Encyclopedia articles about the Cherokee Indian language.
  Various Indian Peoples * Language Tools for Indian Country * Cherokee Language Programs * LaserCherokee:
  Publishing companies that produce Cherokee-language books, apps, and software.
  Cherokee Software * LaserCherokee:
   Cherokee language software products for sale.
  La Lengua Cheroqui * Silabario Cheroqui * Idioma Cheroqui:
  Articles on the Cherokee language in Spanish. With a language map and text samples.
  Cherokee language links.
  Cherokee Tribe:
  Cherokee Indian books.

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