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Film Brings Cherokee Language to Life

11/22/2014 01:00:00 AM Posted by CHASS Communications

Filmmakers Danica Cullinan, Walt Wolfram and Neal Hutcheson with the Public Service Award they won at the 2014 American Indian Film Festival for First Language: The Race to Save Cherokee.

Filmmakers Danica Cullinan, Walt Wolfram and Neal Hutcheson with the Public Service Award they won at the 2014 American Indian Film Festival for First Language: The Race to Save Cherokee.

The Cherokee language has been spoken for three millennia in the Appalachian highlands of western North Carolina, but if current trends aren't reversed, Cherokee will soon go extinct. Of the 13,000 members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, only about 250 people are native Cherokee speakers who grew up speaking Cherokee as their first language in the home - and that number decreases every year as more of them pass away.

The Cherokee tribe is taking steps to preserve their language, but it's an uphill battle. NC State's North Carolina Language and Life Project has produced a film documenting the tribe's efforts and sounding a call to save the language. First Language: The Race to Save Cherokee will premiere at the North Carolina Museum of History on Friday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m. First Language won the award for Best Public Service Film at the 2014 American Indian Film Festival. The film is available for purchase online.

The seed of First Language was planted when Wolfram, William C. Friday Distinguished Professor of English at NC State, and his chief collaborators on the film, video producers Danica Cullinan and Neal Hutcheson, went to western North Carolina a couple of years ago to do research on the English spoken by Cherokee speakers.

Read the full story at ncsu.edu.