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An Animated History of How the Cherokee Have Adapted Their Language for Technology

Throughout history, whenever a new communication technology was introduced into society, the Cherokee people have ensured that their written language could adapt. From the printing press and the typewriter to today's readily available digital technologies like computers and smart phones, the Cherokee language is fully functional thanks to the help of tireless advocates and activists along the way.

As one of the most actively used native languages in the United States, the Cherokee language is spoken by populations in North Carolina and Oklahoma, as well as other states across the country. While more people are now able to write the Cherokee language with syllabics, which are written characters that each represent a syllable, retaining and encouraging more speakers of the language continue to be a high priority. The use of technology has been one way to attract increased interest in the language.

A new animated video produced by the Cherokee Nation Education Services and the Language Technology Program tells the story of this adoption of new technologies over time. Narrated by the Cherokee hero Sequoyah, who first created the first Cherokee syllabary in 1821, the video introduces viewers to some of these breakthroughs.

The Cherokee Nation Language Technology Program supports those interested in utilizing written Cherokee with a special focus on digital technology. Its aim is to create “innovative solutions for the Cherokee language on all digital platforms including smartphones, laptops, desktops, tablets and social networks.” Available on its website are valuable resources such as a glossary of neologisms for technology-related terms, keyboard layouts, and fonts.

Communication technology is constantly evolving, and if history is any indication, the Cherokee language will continue to evolve right along with it.

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