Operation Envoy: The Endangerment of the Cherokee Language and Culture

The endangerment of the Cherokee language, known to the Cherokee people as Tsalagi Gawonihisdi, poses a severe threat to the Cherokee Nation and further undermines the Native American cultural legacy. This linguistic treasure, woven throughout centuries, has been vital to the Cherokee people’s identity, offering them a unique link to their ancient homelands and cultural origins.

The extremely traumatic events of the Trail of Tears in the 1830s are intertwined with the historical context of the Cherokee language’s collapse. In addition to taking many lives, the United States government’s planned forced relocation of the Cherokee people from their ancestral lands destroyed the social cohesion of Cherokee communities. Families were split up, severing the links between elders and the younger community members and interfering with the oral transmission of the Cherokee language across generations. The U.S. government’s assimilation tactics worsened the collapse of the Cherokee language as if the Trail of Tears weren’t terrible enough. English was imposed on Native American communities as a means of erasing their unique language and culture through boarding schools and other assimilationist tactics. Native American language suppression was a calculated move meant to undermine tribal identities and speed absorption into mainstream American society.

Native American languages, like Cherokee, are rapidly disappearing in the modern globalized world due to the widespread influence of English in media, such as television, movies, and the internet. Indigenous communities have to resist the overwhelming power of a dominant culture to preserve their languages and customs, which is a clear example of the effects of modern cultural suppression. The death of thorough educational support and materials for learning the Cherokee language worsens this linguistic catastrophe. The lack of organized language programs makes preserving and reviving this language more difficult, which increases the consequences of past injustices.

Nevertheless, several revitalization initiatives have been made in light of these dire circumstances and the Cherokee language’s impending extinction. Utilizing online resources, educational materials, and language immersion programs makes the Cherokee language more widely available. Community involvement is still essential for the Cherokee people to develop a sense of pride and ownership in maintaining their language and culture despite historical tragedies and current challenges.

In conclusion, to protect the nation’s cultural heritage and identity, the endangered status of the Cherokee language must be changed. The continuous efforts to revive the language serve as an ode to the cultural diversity of indigenous people worldwide, underscoring the importance of preserving linguistic diversity. Despite historical injustices and limitations encountered by Native American communities, the survival of the Cherokee language demonstrates a shared obligation to protect and respect the rich linguistic diversity that contributes to the vast global cultural environment.

Operation Envoy is a project that aims to help spread awareness and give to people losing their native languages and cultures. Keep an eye out for upcoming VOF articles, and to stay up to date on our project, follow our Instagram account @operationenvoy.

Works Cited

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Cherokee language”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 10 Jan. 2020, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Cherokee-language. Accessed 26 December 2023.

National Park Service. “The Trail of Tears and the Forced Relocation of the Cherokee Nation (Teaching with Historic Places) (U.S. National Park Service).” Www.nps.gov, 20 Feb. 2020, www.nps.gov/articles/the-trail-of-tears-and-the-forced-relocation-of-the-cherokee-nation-teaching-with-historic-places.htm.

Reporter, CHAD HUNTER. “Cherokee Nation, Others Weigh in on Language Struggles during Pandemic.” Cherokeephoenix.org, 21 May 2021, www.cherokeephoenix.org/culture/cherokee-nation-others-weigh-in-on-language-struggles-during-pandemic/article_6237b518-bfb9-11eb-87f3-93c4578aecf2.html.