Myrtle Driver Johnson

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Myrtle Driver Johnson
Born (1944-05-21) May 21, 1944 (age 75)
Known for Cherokee language translation and revitalization

Myrtle Driver Johnson (born May 21, 1944) [1] is an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and a native Cherokee language [lower-alpha 1] speaker. [3] As of July 2019 she was one of only 211 remaining Cherokee speakers in the EBCI. [4] In 2007 she was given the title of Beloved Woman [1] by her tribe for her work translating into the endangered Cherokee language.

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), is a federally recognized Native American tribe in the United States, who are descended from the small group of 800 Cherokee who remained in the Eastern United States after the Indian Removal Act moved the other 15,000 Cherokee to the west in the 19th century. They were required to assimilate and renounce tribal Cherokee citizenship.

First language Language a person was raised speaking from birth

A first language, native language or mother/father/parent tongue, is a language that a person has been exposed to from birth or within the critical period. In some countries, the term native language or mother tongue refers to the language of one's ethnic group rather than one's first language. Children brought up speaking more than one language can have more than one native language, and be bilingual or multilingual. By contrast, a second language is any language that one speaks other than one's first language.

Cherokee language Iroquoian language spoken by the Cherokee people

Cherokee is an endangered to moribund Iroquoian language and the native language of the Cherokee people. Ethnologue states that there were 1,520 Cherokee speakers out of 376,000 Cherokee in 2018, while a tally by the three Cherokee tribes in 2019 recorded ~2,100 speakers. The number of speakers is in decline. About 8 fluent speakers die each month, and only a handful of people under 40 are fluent. The dialect of Cherokee in Oklahoma is "definitely endangered", and the one in North Carolina is "severely endangered" according to UNESCO. The Lower dialect, formerly spoken on the South Carolina–Georgia border, has been extinct since about 1900. The dire situation regarding the future of the two remaining dialects prompted the Tri-Council of Cherokee tribes to declare a state of emergency in June 2019, with a call to enhance revitalization efforts.

Contents

Language work

Johnson serves as the EBCI Tribal Council translator and has translated for the EBCI bilingual immersion school, New Kituwah Academy (NKA), since about 2006. [1] For NKA, she translated Charlotte's Web , the first time the book had been translated into an indigenous American language. [5] Johnson also translated Charles Frazier's Thirteen Moons , a novel loosely based on the life of William Holland Thomas that depicts the sociopolitical events surrounding the Cherokee removal. The novel was published by the Museum of the Cherokee Indian press. [5] [6] She narrated her translation of Thirteen Moons for the audio book and also narrated Tsogadu Nvdo, a Cherokee language audio book. [6]

New Kituwah Academy Private Cherokee-language immersion school in North Carolina, United States

The New Kituwah Academy, also known as the Atse Kituwah Academy, is a private bilingual Cherokee- and English-language immersion school for Cherokee students in kindergarten through sixth grade, located in Cherokee, North Carolina, in the Yellow Hill community of the Qualla Boundary. It is owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), and operated by the Kituwah Preservation and Education Program (KPEP); New Kituwah is a separate entity from Cherokee Central Schools. The school is part of a larger effort by the EBCI to save and revitalize the heavily-endangered Cherokee language and instill Cherokee cultural pride.

<i>Charlottes Web</i> childrens novel by American author E. B. White

Charlotte's Web is a children's novel by American author E. B. White and illustrated by Garth Williams; it was published on October 15, 1952, by Harper & Brothers. The novel tells the story of a livestock pig named Wilbur and his friendship with a barn spider named Charlotte. When Wilbur is in danger of being slaughtered by the farmer, Charlotte writes messages praising Wilbur in her web in order to persuade the farmer to let him live.

Indigenous languages of the Americas languages spoken by Indigenous peoples from Alaska and Greenland to the southern tip of South America, encompassing the land masses which constitute the Americas

Indigenous languages of the Americas are spoken by indigenous peoples from Alaska, Nunavut, and Greenland to the southern tip of South America, encompassing the land masses that constitute the Americas. These indigenous languages consist of dozens of distinct language families, as well as many language isolates and unclassified languages.

Johnson has been active with language and culture camps for children and speakers gatherings for adults. [3] She has also participated in the quarterly Cherokee Language Consortium, a gathering of the three federally recognized tribes [lower-alpha 2] to standardize new terms in Cherokee. [1] [3]

Views

Johnson was interviewed for the documentary First Language – The Race to Save Cherokee, and was translated as saying that "the children are learning to speak Cherokee, and I feel the Cherokee language is important because the government sees the Indians, but doesn't see them as Indians if they don't speak their own language". [7]

Johnson toured the Cherokee Nation immersion school in Oklahoma before NKA was established and was so moved by seeing a 4-year-old read Cherokee words that she had to step out of the classroom to cry. [1] In 2019, the Tri-Council of the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes declared a state of emergency with regard to the future of the Cherokee language. [8] This declaration included a resolution to work together on language revitalization, prompting Johnson to say "when they signed it, they made an agreement with us. They're going to help us. I'm not going to let them forget it." [4]

Honors

The Beloved Woman honor, which is rarely given and the highest a member can receive, was given to Johnson in 2007. [1] [9]

Family

Johnson's two daughters, Myrna Climbingbear and Renissa McLaughlin, have worked with her on language revitalization. Renissa McLaughlin, also known as Renissa Walker, has managed the Kituwah Preservation and Education Program of the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, overseeing NKA. [1] [10] [11] Johnson's daughter Myrna Climbingbear died at age 56 in June 2018 from cancer. [1] [12]

See also

Notes

  1. Specifically, Johnson's language expertise is representative of the Kituwah (also known as the Middle or Eastern) dialect of Cherokee. [2]
  2. The three federally recognized Cherokee tribes are the Cherokee Nation (OK), the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (OK), and the Eastern Band (NC).

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References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Kays, Holly (September 19, 2018). "Cherokee from the heart: Beloved Woman reflects on a wandering life rooted in Cherokee language". Smoky Mountain News. Archived from the original on May 14, 2019. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  2. Hartwell S. Francis (2018). Jeffrey Reaser, Eric Wilbanks, Karissa Wojcik, Walt Wolfram (eds.). Language Variety in the New South: Contemporary Perspectives on Change and Variation. University of North Carolina Press. p. 376. ISBN   978-1-4696-3881-2.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  3. 1 2 3 "Groups bring new life to the ancient Cherokee language". Carolina Public Press. July 17, 2012. Archived from the original on July 8, 2019. Retrieved July 8, 2019.
  4. 1 2 Knoepp, Lilly (July 3, 2019). "State Of Emergency Declared For Cherokee Language". Blue Ridge Public Radio. Archived from the original on July 4, 2019.
  5. 1 2 Neal, Dale (May 26, 2016). "Beloved children's book translated into Cherokee". Asheville Citizen Times. Archived from the original on July 6, 2019. Retrieved July 6, 2019.
  6. 1 2 "Publications". Museum of the Cherokee Indian. Archived from the original on April 21, 2019.
  7. "First Language - The Race to Save Cherokee". YouTube. Archived from the original on July 26, 2019. 21 minutes and 18 seconds in.
  8. McKie, Scott (June 27, 2019). "Tri-Council declares State of Emergency for Cherokee language". Cherokee One Feather. Archived from the original on June 29, 2019. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
  9. "What Does it Mean to be a Cherokee Beloved Woman?". Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Archived from the original on July 12, 2018. Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  10. "Grand Marshals chosen for Indian Fair Parade". Cherokee One Feather. September 15, 2015. Archived from the original on February 16, 2019.
  11. Renissa Walker (April 25, 2014) WMYA. Archive url
  12. "Myrna D. Climbingbear – obituary". Cherokee One Feather. June 18, 2018. Archived from the original on July 8, 2019.