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The Way We Speak With the World: Cherokee Language Film & Concert

August 4, 2023 - August 5, 2023

On August 4 and 5, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian (MCI) will present The Way We Speak with the World, a film and concert event celebrating the Cherokee language. Held at the Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center at Cherokee Central Schools, the community-centered event is open to the public and free of charge; free tickets can be secured via Eventbrite.

The event kicks off on Friday, August 4 with a screening of “ᏓᏗᏬᏂᏏ (Dadiwonisi / We Will Speak),” a feature-length documentary collaboration chronicling the efforts of Cherokee activists, artists, and educators fighting to save the Cherokee language. A Q&A with members of the film’s production team will follow the screening.

On Saturday, August 5, attendees will be treated to a Cherokee language concert featuring Cherokee Nation musicians who contributed to the groundbreaking 2022 compilation album Anvdvnelisgi (ᎠᏅᏛᏁᎵᏍᎩ). Artists will perform their original songs, with genres ranging from folk to metal to hip-hop, reggae, and beyond.

The Way We Speak with the World signals the urgency of language preservation and honors the citizens who are working to preserve, perpetuate, learn, and teach Tsalagi. Every two weeks around the world, an Indigenous language is lost; Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma counts only 2,000 living fluent speakers among its 380,000 tribal citizens, while North Carolina’s Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) estimates that 152 of its 16,800 enrolled members fluently speak the language. Forced assimilation at Indian boarding schools, where speaking Cherokee was forbidden, is a recent memory. But citizens persisted: elders who held language close have shared their knowledge with their successors, and with the development of adult language programs and immersive language schools for children—like the EBCI’s own New Kituwah Academy—generations are uniting to ensure that Cherokee language thrives.

“Through oral traditions, our Cherokee culture has been able to survive for millions of years,” says Shennelle Feather (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Diné, Lakota), Education Program Manager at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. “This event is honoring our language through film and music—two modern ways of sharing stories—and proves that we are still using oral history to teach the world and remind ourselves that we are still here. That our language is not dead, it is living, it is and can evolve just like the people who speak it and have spoken it since time immemorial.”

A companion event to MCI’s 2022 event The Way We See the World, which featured screenings of contemporary, Indigenous-made short films and special guests—including Reservation Dogs creator Sterlin Harjo (Seminole Nation)—The Way We Speak with the World continues the tradition of centering the Cherokee community and exhibiting how tradition and culture endure through contemporary media.

“This event is for our at-large Cherokee community from North Carolina to Oklahoma and will happen in the original homelands—not just for our people, but for all the beings that yearn to hear the language that is originally theirs,” says Feather.

The Way We Speak with the World is made possible through the generous support of the Walelu Cherokee Ball Team, Cherokee Preservation Foundation, the Office of the Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and Kituwah LLC. Sponsorship opportunities are still available: learn more here.

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Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center
86 Elk Crossing Lane
Cherokee, NC 28719 United States
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We welcome submission of Western North Carolina events focused on our heritage themes of mountain music, crafts, foodways, outdoors and Cherokee culture. Please submit two weeks in advance.

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