Indianz.Com > News > Chuck Hoskin: Cherokee Nation launches new program for Cherokee speakers
Cherokee Nation launches innovative Speaker Services Program

For nearly a year, fluent Cherokee Speaker Rosie Flute was cooking family meals on an electric burner after her stove wore out. Raindrops would frequently drip down from the ceiling in her living room. Last week, the 70-year-old elder received a new roof, along with a stove and walk-in shower, thanks to a new program the Cherokee Nation has started and is calling Speaker Services. Cherokee Speakers are often the last citizens to seek out services they need, so this innovative program is going straight to them — and already making a big impact. Since January 2022, the Cherokee Nation has expended $1.2 million on more than 200 housing projects for Cherokee Speakers and installed over 100 appliances through the Speaker Services program. Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Cherokee Nation Deputy Principal Chief Bryan Warner have set aside another $6 million to help even more speakers with housing rehabs and other essential needs over the next three years. ➡️ Read more about the Cherokee Nation’s new innovative Speaker Services Program here: ➡️ To contact Speaker Services, please call 918-316-9080. #Together #CommunityFamilyCulture

Posted by Cherokee Nation on Monday, August 8, 2022
Cherokee Nation: Speaker Services
Pioneering program expands aid for Cherokee first-language speakers
Monday, August 22, 2022
Cherokee Nation

As Cherokees, we are in a race to save our language. Deputy Chief Bryan Warner and I know that whatever we can do to save the Cherokee language will be our greatest legacy. Today only about 2,000 first-language speakers remain alive, and most of these men and women are over the age of 70. We must learn from their wisdom and knowledge for as long as we can, and they deserve to live in comfort and dignity while they teach us.

That is why Cherokee Nation recently launched a new Speaker Services program to address the day-to-day needs of our elder, fluent speakers. Instead of expecting elders to ask for help when they need it, we shifted that burden onto the tribal government. Our new Speaker Services team is taking the initiative and working directly with communities and families to see how we can better support our treasured speakers in their homes.

Speaker Services is working to identify essential needs, whether that means home repairs and upgrades like ramp installations, food assistance, transportation, help with utilities or even help with legal issues. We believe if Cherokees speakers aren’t worried about a leaking roof, securing a hearing aid or wheelchair, or any number of other household details, then they can focus on sharing language lessons with their family and other citizens who want to learn the Cherokee language.

Rosie Flute and Chuck Hoskin Jr.
Cherokee language speaker Rosie Flute shows Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., her new stove after getting assistance from the Cherokee Nation’s Speaker Services program. Photo: Anadisgoi / Cherokee Nation

We will not succeed on our language revitalization mission if we do not take care of our fluent Cherokee speakers. If we expect our speakers to be there for us, to help us perpetuate the Cherokee language, then we must be there for them. We know it can be difficult to reach out for help, so we devised a better way to serve them. It is already making a significant impact.

The Speaker Services program is operated by the Cherokee Nation’s Language Department and has four crews with workers who all speak Cherokee. So far, the team has installed 102 appliances and completed 57 property upgrades, 52 roof repairs, 40 walk-in showers, 28 HVAC upgrades and 18 electrical repairs, among other projects.

The program started out with just a few hundred thousand dollars to repair a few homes, with passionate volunteers working on the weekends and in their spare time. Now it has grown substantially. We are committing $7 million over the next three years as we project to fix about 1,200 more homes and address housing needs. We are also formalizing the program’s structure so that its activities are on secure footing for years to come. With the expanded program, we will be able to complete more costly repairs and upgrades that are sorely needed.

We are already making the largest investment in history to save the Cherokee language thanks to the Durbin Feeling Act passed in 2019 that allocates $16 million to language preservation. The Speaker Services program is another first-of-its-kind effort, which other tribal nations are already studying in hopes of replicating it.

The $7 million Speaker Services investment is just a part of our overall effort to provide assistance to elders and others in need across the reservation. Under the Housing, Jobs and Sustainable Communities Act we are investing $120 million in affordable housing, home repairs for all low-income elders and upgrades to community buildings over the next three years.

All of this means we are reaching out to our most vulnerable elders in record numbers. We are putting real resources behind the idea that elders should be honored.

Every day we hear from our community of speakers about how this innovative program is helping them live better, fuller lives. We understand that saving the Cherokee language is a mission we quite simply cannot fail. By serving our elderly fluent Cherokees, the Speaker Services program will help their precious knowledge live forever.

Call 918-316-9080 to contact Speaker Services.

Chuck Hoskin Jr
Chuck Hoskin Jr. is the 18th elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, the largest Indian tribe in the United States. He is only the second elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation from Vinita, the first being Thomas Buffington, who served from 1899-1903. Prior to being elected Principal Chief, Hoskin served as the tribe’s Secretary of State. He also formerly served as a member of the Council of the Cherokee Nation, representing District 11 for six years.