Singing traditional hymns, reciting poems and even saying the Pledge of Allegiance in the Cherokee language earned Cherokee Immersion Charter School students 18 trophies during the recent 14th Annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair.
The Native American Language department at the University of Oklahoma’s Sam Noble Museum hosted the competition. It celebrates the use of native languages in traditional and modern ways.
The Cherokee Immersion Charter School won nine first-place trophies, six second-place trophies and three third-place trophies. The school is operated by the Cherokee Nation and uses state curriculum taught by certified teachers who speak Cherokee.
“Every day our students are in the classroom learning to speak, read and write the same language as their ancestors so that we ensure it carries on,” said Immersion School Principal Holly Davis. “This competition allows our students to show the public their language proficiency and the pride in their culture, so we are excited to participate each year.”
Dan Swan, interim curator for Native American Languages at the Sam Noble Museum, said this year they had the largest number of students, at 1,100, to compete in the native language competition. The two-day event held earlier this month also set a record high, with nearly 3,400 attending.
“There were dozens of languages represented, and the fair has become a key part of our identity in the Native community,” Swan said. “The fair has a huge support base, from financial sponsors to all the judges who come from tribal communities, and who are speakers, that work with us for months to make it happen.”
Aside from the Cherokee Nation, students came from the Muscogee Creek Nation, Osage Nation, Kiowa, Otoe-Missouri and many other federally recognized tribes.
Students competed in spoken language, modern and traditional song, spoken prayer, spoken poetry, short film and a poster contest.