Eastern Band marks language teaching milestone this month

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians marked the 10th anniversary of the tribe’s successful Indian language initiative, the Kituwah Preservation and Education Program, on April 17.

Funded by a $3 million grant from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, the KPEP is a multi-faceted effort to revitalize the Cherokee language. The program began in 2004 with a single classroom. In 2009, the Eastern Band opened the Kituwah Academy, a 42,000-square-foot facility with 10 classrooms where children from infancy through fourth grade receive instruction in their native language.

Referred to as a “total immersion” approach, the program teaches Cherokee as a first language to children beginning as young as six months. All classes and all conversation is conducted in Cherokee. Participating children and their parents learn to speak and read together.

“The immersion school stands as the tribe’s best hope for keeping the language alive,” said EBCI Principal Chief Michell Hicks. “Not only are we teaching our language to our children, but native language experts associated with the Kituwah program are translating dozens of books and other materials, even movies, into Cherokee.”