Northeastern debuts degree in Cherokee education

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TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - Campus conversation will take on a whole "new" language
as Northeastern State University debuts the Bachelor of Arts in Education
in Cherokee Education.

Believed to be the nation's only four-year degree offered in a Native
language, the program prepares students for K - 12 teaching positions in
Cherokee (speaking, reading, writing) and provides them with a foundation
in Cherokee culture and heritage. The program kicks off this fall.

A cooperative effort born through a partnership between NSU and Cherokee
Nation officials, the innovative program received its stamp of approval
from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education in February. Though
the degree is new at NSU, the concept is not. Northeastern has offered
several American Indian degree programs and courses since its inception in
1909, including bachelor's degrees in Cherokee bilingual studies (no longer
offered) and Native American studies.

"Northeastern and the Cherokee Nation share a long and rich heritage," said
NSU President Dr. Larry Williams. "From our roots as the Cherokee National
Female Seminary to our leadership role as Oklahoma's premier regional
university, NSU is committed to developing and offering quality
undergraduate programs which meet the changing needs of the student
population and the communities we serve. The NSU Cherokee Education degree
is another step toward preserving our Cherokee heritage."

NEED FOR LANGUAGE REVITALIZATION

According to a 2002 survey conducted by the Cherokee Nation, fewer than 7
percent of tribal members in northeastern Oklahoma (respondents) can speak
the Cherokee language. When applied to the Fishman Scale of Language Loss,
the Cherokee language is considered to be about two generations from
extinction.

Area school administrators recognize the importance of teaching the
Cherokee language to a large Cherokee population - more than 17, 000
students - within the Cherokee Nation's jurisdiction.

"This is a great achievement," said Chad Smith, principal chief of the
Cherokee Nation. "The Cherokee Education degree supports our long-range
goal to revitalize the Cherokee language. Young Cherokees want to learn
their language, and by certifying language teachers we can give our kids
the chance to study their language in public schools as well as at home. I
thank our education team for their research and I commend the University
for recognizing the need for this degree."

For more information about the Bachelor of Arts in Education in Cherokee
Education, contact the College of Liberal Arts at (918) 456.5511, ext.
3600; or visit the university's Web site: www.nsuok.edu.