“Our flags are flying at half mast today to honor his passing,” says Sammye R. Rusco, the Director of Communications for the Cherokee Nation. The man he’s referring to is Steven Paul Jobs, the visionary co-founder and CEO of Apple who spearheaded the creation of personal computers and transformed the way people listen to music, watch movies, communicate on their phones, and even think about technology, has died at the age of 56. A friend of the family said that Jobs died of complications from pancreatic cancer. Jobs had waged a long, and very public battle, with the disease.
Melanie Knight, the secretary of state and group leader of education services for Cherokee Nation, had this to say about Jobs’s passing: “As a Nation we are saddened by the news of Steve Jobs passing. Steve Jobs was an innovative and tireless leader who will be greatly missed. A company takes on the character of its leadership, and we believe that was the case with Apple. The company and staff believed in our language and the Cherokee people. Apple worked with us not because it was profitable for them, but because they believed in the project. The Cherokee Nation is lowering its flags to half mast today in honor of Steve Jobs and what his leadership means to the future of the Cherokee language.”
The reaction to his death has been felt across a world he helped make smaller thanks to the many technological breakthroughs he helped create. Many people got the news from mobile news updates on one of Jobs most iconic creations, the iPhone. Social media and networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have served as interactive memorials for Jobs, with many users summing up their feelings over his loss in a way Jobs would have probably found very touching: “iSad.” Industry leaders, from Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, to Google‘s homepage (which has his name and lifespan, 1955-2011, directly under their search bar) have commemorated Jobs in the last twelve hours.
In Indian Country Today Media Network’s September 28 issue, Cherokee artist and language preservationist Roy Boney Jr. created a graphic story about the Cherokee language, which graced our cover. The story was about how the Cherokee language has survived and evolved from ‘parchment to the iPad,’ the latter being one of Jobs’ latest, and greatest, additions to his incredible legacy. Boney wrote about how a Cherokee font was available on computers running Apple’s Mac OS X.
We contacted Boney this morning to get his thoughts, and he informed us he had already started writing about his feelings on the passing of Jobs, and will be sending us a story in the next few hours.
Jobs connection to Cherokee Nation has been well established. A year earlier, in December of 2010, ICTMN reported that the Cherokee language could be found on iPhones and iPods for more than 300 million users. The Cherokee Nation and software developers at Apple computers worked together for several years to bring the written language of the Nation into the 21st Century. The program that was introduced, called the Cherokee syllabary, is the first Native language program to be offered among the 50 languages on Apple’s iOS devices. Knight told us that Apple actively sought out a partnership with the Cherokee Nation. “Apple took the initiative to work with the Cherokee Nation and pursued the project. The staff were persistent and patient, and the company didn’t receive payment from the Nation. It was a simple matter of willing partners coming together to make it happen.”
Knight spoke about the Cherokee Nation’s relationship with Apple, one that not a lot of people know about: “For the Cherokee Nation, it was the return of our language to modern technology and renewed hope that our language will not only survive, but thrive. After Sequoyah’s invention of the syllabary in 1821, the Nation acquired a press and began publication of the Cherokee Phoenix in the Cherokee language in 1828, placing the Cherokee language on the cutting edge of technology of the time. Apple’s partnership with the Nation returned our language to the cutting edge of technology once again, which was a historic turning point in saving our language. After Apple debuted Cherokee language on the iPhone, other companies became interested and we now have partnerships with Google, Microsoft and Facebook to advance the Cherokee language. This would not have occurred without the leadership of Apple.”
Jobs was an iconoclast, doing things differently from the start, with an unyielding vision for what he believed customers wanted without market testing them. He had an uncanny ability to know what we wanted before we did. His legacy will live on in the simple and elegant design and functionality of his products at Apple, in the often astounding movies that come out of Pixar, a company he bought in 1986, and in the millions of people who enjoy the phones, computers, tablets and iPods he created.