MAY 18, 2005


Northeastern debuts Cherokee Education Degree
NSU & Cherokee Nation work together to revitalize Cherokee language

Chelbie Turtle readies for her solo during the NSU Cherokee Education Degree Program Announcement. Turtle is one of several 3- and 4-year-old students enrolled in the Cherokee Nation Immersion Class. The choir delighted audiences with songs sang in the Cherokee language.

More than Conversation. Campus conversation will take on whole a “new” language as Northeastern debuts the Bachelor of Arts in Education in Cherokee Education. Believed to be the nation’s only four-year degree offered in a native language, the program prepares students for K-12 teaching positions in Cherokee (speaking, reading, writing) and provides them with a foundation in Cherokee culture and heritage.

The program kicks off this fall with courses offered in Elementary Cherokee I, Conversational Cherokee I, Intermediate Cherokee I, Cherokee Conversational Practicum and Cherokee Cultural Heritage.

A cooperative effort born through a partnership between Northeastern and Cherokee Nation officials, the innovative program received its stamp of approval from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education this past February. Though the degree is new at NSU, the concept is not. Since its inception in 1909, Northeastern has offered several Native American degree programs and courses including bachelors degrees in Cherokee Bilingual Studies (no longer offered) and Native American studies (currently offered).

“Northeastern and the Cherokee Nation share a long and rich heritage,” said NSU President Dr. Larry Williams. “From our roots as the Cherokee National Female Seminary to our leadership role as Oklahoma’s premier regional university, NSU is committed to developing and offering quality undergraduate programs which meet the changing needs of the student population and the communities we serve. The NSU Cherokee Education degree is another step toward preserving our Cherokee heritage.”

Need for Language Revitalization. According to a 2002 survey conducted by the Cherokee Nation, less than 7 percent of tribal members in northeastern Oklahoma (respondents) can speak the Cherokee language. When applied to the Fishman Scale of Language Loss, the Cherokee language is considered to be about two generations from extinction. Area school administrators recognize the importance of teaching the Cherokee language to a large Cherokee population of more than 17, 000 students within the Cherokee Nation 's jurisdiction.

"This is a great achievement,” said Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. “The Cherokee Education Degree supports our long-range goal to revitalize the Cherokee language. Young Cherokees want to learn their language and by certifying language teachers we can give our kids the chance to study their language in public schools as well as at home. I thank our education team for their research and I commend the University for recognizing the need for this degree.”

For more information about the Bachelor of Arts in Education in Cherokee Education, contact the College of Liberal Arts at 918.456.5511, ext 3600.