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Cherokee Nation Joins International Language Consortium

The Cherokee language has joined the Unicode Consortium, an international organization that sets international software standards.
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The Cherokee Nation has joined the Unicode Consortium, a nonprofit formed in 1987 to set international software standards, to help promote growth in use of the Cherokee language.

“Our program [the Cherokee Nation Language Technology Program] focuses on getting all kinds of technology to support the Cherokee language. So, we’ve done work with Apple to get Cherokee on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, and we’ve worked with Facebook to get some of the localization of that into the syllabary. We’ve worked with Google doing the same thing,” said Roy Boney Jr., a language technologist with the Cherokee Nation.

“When Windows 8 comes out next year, it’ll have a keyboard and font standard on all Windows 8 machines as well,” said Boney’s co-worker and fellow language technologist, Joseph Erb. “We work with major companies to make sure that when a product comes out our language has access to it.”

Boney said having representation in the international community through Unicode is very important.

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“With every computer system in the world…there’s a language standard that they all follow, and that’s set by the Unicode Consortium. What they do is they take every written character in every language that they support and they assign it a unique code number. So a computer knows if somebody’s using Chinese, Japanese, Arabic or whatever it is, and Cherokee has been assigned numbers in that system, too. Basically the Unicode group governs what technology supports which language,” said Boney in a release. “We’re the only tribal nation that’s represented in the group. It’s a pretty great distinction for the Cherokee Nation to be represented.”

The Cherokee Nation expects its involvement to have a lasting impact on the Cherokee Language.

“Everybody that uses a computer uses Unicode,” said Erb. “Cherokee is going to be on every major computer device. In every society throughout history, the ones that survive have the best technology, and the ones that have weaker technology usually get swept up and disappear. We don’t want to disappear. We want to make sure that Cherokee is a vibrant culture, a strong culture. We want to make sure that our language is strong and this gives us the ability to access our language and communicate as the rest of the world does. This gives us the ability to unite our people with social media and with e-mail so that our next generation of Cherokees can communicate together in the language. It will actually tie our people back together with the language.”