“The Cherokee language could be gone in a few decades. We need to change that.”
Indigenous people have spoken Cherokee in North Carolina for 11,000 years. Now, only 238 people — 1.4 percent of the 17,000 citizens of the Eastern Band of Cherokees — speak the tribe’s Kituwah dialect. Most are 65 and older.
American studies assistant professor Ben Frey ’05 is working to revitalize that language through the weekly “AniKahwi,” meaning Cherokee Coffee Hour, for students interested in learning to speak Cherokee. Walk past Abernethy Hall Room 102 on any given Friday afternoon during the semester and you’ll likely hear sounds of an endangered language wafting through the halls.
This is story number 221 in the Carolina Stories 225th Anniversary Edition magazine.