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Cherokee Nation immersion students excel at language fair

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TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - Cherokee Nation language immersion students recently participated in the sixth annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman.

''Through our language immersion program, we are working diligently to teach future generations our native tongue,'' said Chad Smith, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. ''The Cherokee language enhances the quality of life of our people and preserves the culture and traditions of our past. The Cherokee Nation is very proud of these young Cherokees and their accomplishments at the language fair.''

Students of American Indian languages from preschool to high school were invited to enter the two-day competition. Participants demonstrated their language skills through presentations of skits, stories, poetry, drama, song and dance by incorporating Native language into their performance. Students also had the chance to present their knowledge of American Indian culture by participating in a poster contest, a creative writing competition and a film/video/multimedia category.

According to museum officials, each year the competition hosts more than 600 participants who compete in as many as 27 Native languages.

The immersion second-grade class was awarded first place in the spoken language division. Members include Cambria Bird, Emilee Chavez, Cheyenne Drowningbear, Cree Drowningbear, Alayna Harkreader, Lauren Hummingbird, Calesa Murdock, Sean Sikora and Maggie Sourjohn. The group teachers are Peggy Sawney and Marie Eubanks.

The immersion pre-K placed second in the spoken language competition. Members include Rebecca Ballou, Robert Chanate, Landen Dry, David Hadley, Lyndee Hammer, Agalisi Mackey, Logan Webber, Eric Walters, Julianne Jumper and Jennie Whitekiller. Thelma Soap and Joan Fields taught the group with assistance from Meda Nix, a student at Northeastern State University.

The immersion kindergarten class, taught by Nora Birdtail and Cindy Collins, placed third in spoken language. Group members include Alexis Kelly, Hondo Kirk, Sinihele Rhoads and Solomon Winn.

''We are very proud of the accomplishments made by our students and staff,'' said Rebecca Drywater, language project supervisor. ''The mission of the immersion program is the revitalization of the Cherokee language. Through the strong efforts of our Cherokee teachers and the support of the parents, the success of each of our participants in the language fair is evidence of the success of this program.

''We are proud of our students and all of their hard work and dedication. Our goal is to teach our Cherokee children their native language. I think our success at the language fair is evidence that we are accomplishing that goal.''