TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation recently started a new pen pal program with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina to encourage and promote stronger cultural interactions in the Cherokee language.
Immersion students in kindergarten, first grade and second grade from both tribes have been exchanging activities, cards and cultural items, all written in Cherokee. Recently, Cherokee Nation’s second-grade immersion students received a package from their pen pals containing materials they collected in the forest. Each student bagged up items including sticks, moss, lichens and rocks and labeled the bags with their Cherokee name.
“The kids are excited and they feel like they’re getting to know the other kids a little bit,” said Denise Chaudoin, Cherokee Nation Immersion School second-grade teacher. “It’s a really good program for the kids in both areas to get to know each other and realize we’re all Cherokees, whether we’re from the east or west.”
The Cherokee Nation Immersion School, Tsalagi Tsunadeloquasdi, began in 2001 as a language preservation program, which aims to educate children in a cultural environment while revitalizing and promoting the use of the Cherokee language. Students in preschool through sixth grade are immersed into an environment where Cherokee is the only language spoken.
According to Sequoyah Schools Curriculum Director Samantha Benn-Duke, the objectives of the pen pal program are to facilitate stronger communication with schools in Cherokee, introduce students to other dialects of the Cherokee language, provide opportunities to interact with other students that speak Cherokee and to create mutual topics of discussion to facilitate communication with the Eastern Band.
“The Atse Kituwah Academy in Cherokee, N.C. has students beginning at six months of age through second grade,” Benn-Duke said. “We have communicated with them sporadically in the past, mostly via iChat, but we hope the new pen pal program will elicit stronger and more frequent communication between classes.”
For more information about Cherokee Nation Immersion School visit www.cherokee.org or call 918-207-4900.