First Lady Jill Biden, Home Secretary Haaland visit Cherokee Immersion School in Tahlequah to support tribal language preservation



TAHLEQUAH, Oklahoma (KFOR) – First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and U.S. Home Secretary Deb Haaland visited Tahlequah on Friday and learned about the Cherokee Nation’s historic efforts to preserve and perpetuate its native language .

Biden and Haaland, along with first daughter Ashley Biden, were guests at the Cherokee Immersion School in Tahlequah, where progress is being made to preserve the Cherokee language, according to a press release from the Cherokee Nation.

The First Lady and the Secretary of the Interior joined the third-year Cherokee students for an immersion course that included reading, writing and practicing the Cherokee language. Throughout the day, students learn a standard school-level curriculum entirely in the Cherokee language, as part of the immersion program.

(LR) Third-grade Cherokee Immersion School teacher Cindy Collins, First Lady Dr Jill Biden, Home Secretary Deb Haaland, Principal Chuck Hoskin Jr. listening to third-grade students Hunter Sanders, Henry Johnson and Riley Aimerson. Photo of the Cherokee Nation.

The Cherokee National Youth Choir also performed a Cherokee hymn, “Orphan Child,” for the First Lady and Haaland during the visit.

“As an English teacher, I have always believed that language is not just a set of words. Language has the power to create, to define the nuances of our joy and our pain, to separate what matters from the mundane. It helps us tell the story of our culture and traditions, containing the wisdom of the world that only we know. It connects us to our faith, naming the divine and our relationship with it. It is a thread woven between the past, the present and the future – the legacy of our ancestors and a gift we give to our children. The ability to speak our own truth in our own words is power, ”said First Lady Biden.

The First Lady, First Daughter and Home Secretary traveled to Tahlequah just over two weeks after the First Lady unveiled the White House’s Indigenous Language MoU at the Nations Summit 2021, which was the first gathering of tribal leaders since 2016.

The summit was held to connect the Biden administration with tribal leaders across the country in a nation-to-nation framework, the press release said.

Chief Cherokee Nation Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., a panelist at the summit, urged the Biden administration to continue to have strong discussions with tribal nations on critical issues, policy initiatives and goals that have a bearing on them. impact on Indian country.

“I want to thank the First Lady, Dr Biden and Secretary Haaland for visiting the Cherokee Nation Reserve and seeing firsthand how our Cherokee language department does more than just preserve our precious Cherokee language,” but find innovative ways to perpetuate it so that it remains the lifeblood of Cherokee culture for generations to come, ”Hoskin said. “The Cherokee Nation remains committed to preserving our language because we know it is at the heart of who we are. Friday’s visit by First Lady Biden and Secretary Haaland allowed us to discuss how critical it is that the Cherokee Nation and tribal nations across the country receive the resources and support we need to act quickly. and decisively to save our unique languages, which are cultural treasures.

The photo goes with the story
(Left to right) Home Secretary Deb Haaland, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Senior Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Deputy Chief Bryan Warner, Executive Director of the Cherokee Languages ​​Department Howard Paden discuss the historic priority of the Cherokee nation in the preservation and perpetuation of the language. Photo of the Cherokee Nation.

Cherokee leaders spoke with the first lady during the visit about the Cherokee Durbin Feeling Language Act, which Hoskin signed in 2019, investing $ 16 million to preserve and perpetuate the Cherokee language.

The act, named in honor of the late Cherokee linguist Durbin Feeling, the largest contributor to the Cherokee language since Sequoyah, allowed the tribe to build a new state-of-the-art language center to house all of the Cherokee language programs in one. establishment, states the press release.

The Biden administration is pledging $ 220 million to the country’s tribal nations to help protect and preserve their native languages.

“It’s amazing to be at Cherokee Immersion School with our First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden to highlight an issue close to my heart,” Haaland said. “Our Indigenous languages ​​are an important part of our culture and of who we are as a people. Our languages ​​connect us to our ancestors and our native lands and help us to share indigenous knowledge from generation to generation. Many of our languages ​​are in danger of being lost. That is why preserving the Indigenous language is so important and we are taking action.

The First Lady is a professor of writing at Northern Virginia Community College. Haaland is the first Native American to hold the post of cabinet secretary.



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