Northeastern University
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5pm London / 1pm Boston / 10am Oakland

Cherokee people have proven themselves to be prolific writers in the language since the early 1820’s when a Cherokee man named Sequoyah first introduced the 86-character Cherokee syllabary to his people. Today, over two-thousand manuscript pages of Cherokee language documents inked in the Cherokee syllabary can be found in archives around the United States. Written between 1880 and 1960, these documents include church records, remembrances, speeches, letters, and governance documents — the quotidian literacies of Cherokee life. While this documentary evidence offers insight into Cherokee life, knowledge, stories, and governance during times of great uncertainty, we haven’t yet figured out how to read these documents as something important. Coded as they were in the Cherokee syllabary, these documents have remained largely unexamined, untranslated and accessible only through archives or access to personal collections. With the support of the Henry K. Luce Foundation and National Archives, the Digital Archive of Indigenous Language Persistence (DAILP) team at Northeastern University published a corpus of 87 documents in a digital edited collection called Cherokees Writing the Keetoowah Way (CWKW).  Drawing on a selection of stories appearing in CWKW, my talk demonstrates an abiding social compact to work together toward a greater good, particularly in times of great social uncertainty.


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