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Cherokee Nation Graduate Student Reviving the Cherokee Language

Native American graduate student studies and helps preserve Cherokee language to improve dissertation on services for the Cherokee Nation.
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Cherokee Nation member Julie Reed, a fifth-year history doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill) and a current Sequoyah fellow, is learning the Cherokee language and syllabary developed by the fellowship’s namesake.

She and Trey Adcock, a third-year doctoral student in the Education School’s Culture, Curriculum and Change program, took a Cherokee language course three summers ago and are now helping to teach undergraduates at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The 10-day immersion class teaches conversational Cherokee. “It combines physical actions with the language itself, so that your body is actually associating language with the movement,” Reed said in the Spring 2011 issue of The Fountain, an annual publication by the Graduate School of the University of Chapel Hill.

The language class has affected her dissertation on social services in the Cherokee Nation positively. “It forced me to ask different kinds of questions in my research. I write about the Cherokee Nation's development of social services, specifically an orphanage, a prison and a mental health institution,” Reed said in The Fountain. “Cherokee speakers may not conceptualize ideas the same way that English speakers do, which signals that there could be something radically different about how these institutions may be adopted, accepted or used in the community.”

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And the Sequoyah Fellowship, part of the Royster Society of Fellows in the Graduate School at UNC-Chapel Hill, has enabled Reed to devote herself fully to her dissertation by providing a stipend, tuition and fees, health insurance and travel funding.

Her work has garnered a career opportunity months before completing her degree. She will teach Native American history at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville next fall.

But her heart lies with her Cherokee roots. “I would love to be in an area close to a Cherokee community and be able to work with Cherokee students,” she said in The Fountain.

Read the full story and see more pictures in The Fountain.