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Mtn. Talk: Racing to Preserve the Cherokee Language

Mtn. Talk: Racing to Preserve the Cherokee Language

Micah Swimmer and his grandmother, the late Amanda Swimmer who was a fluent speaker of the Cherokee language. Photo courtesy of Micah Swimmer.


In this episode we learn from Micah & Jakeli Swimmer. Micah & Jakeli are brothers, educators and enrolled members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee. They grew up hearing their grandmother, Amanda Swimmer, speak the language. And as the last remaining fluent age and pass away, Micah & Jakeli find themselves in an urgent race to learn as much of the language as they can, and to help teach it to others in their community. 


In the first half of this show, Micah & Jakeli talk about their passion for learning and sharing the language, the urgency they feel to preserve the language in the face of a rapid loss of fluent speakers each year, and how boarding schools, colonization, and historical trauma all influence the loss of indigenous languages across the country. In the second half, we hear about the work they’re doing to preserve the Cherokee language through teaching both children and adults, a new app and online language learning site aimed at preserving the language, and we hear Micah & Jakeli speak some of the language.


Music on this episode features Owen Snake Champan with a tune called “In Come a Little Bee” off his album Fiddle Ditty.  That album was released by Appalshop’s own JuneAppal Recordings in 1990. This episode was recorded, edited, & produced by Rachel Garringer.






appalachian history,
Eastern Band of Cherokee,
Indigenous History,
Language Preservation,
Native Peoples,

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