Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

UA addition of Cherokee language class dependent on student interest

CW / Natalie Teat
The Cherokee Language Class will meet at B.B. Comer Hall

The UA Critical Languages Center is adding a Cherokee language class taught by native speaker Gary Drowning Bear this fall. 

The class was developed by CLC Director Koji Arizumi, and several students have signed up. Nevertheless, the class faces possible cancellation.  

While Arizumi did not respond to a request for comment, The Crimson White obtained explanatory emails he sent to a student enrolled in the class.  

“This may be the first indigenous language class in the higher education institution in Alabama,” Arizumi wrote in the email. “It is a very rare opportunity for students to experience the Cherokee language and culture from the native person.”  

Arizumi added that many people of the Cherokee Tribe of Northeast Alabama support the class and are excited about it. 

A CLC webpage describes the language as “endangered” and says it is spoken by only around 3,000 people nationwide. 

The CLC, part of the Department of Modern Languages and Classics in the College of Arts and Sciences, oversees a set of self-instructional “less commonly taught language” classes ranging from American Sign Language to Korean to Hebrew.  

The Cherokee class, called CRL 101 Beginning Cherokee, is the latest to be added to the CLC and features two sections, 005 and 006.  

Arizumi, however, is uncertain about the future of the course. In an Aug. 25 email to a student enrolled in the class, he explained that it may be canceled by the College of Arts and Sciences. 

“Since only one student moved to 006 at this point, A&S suggested to cancel the class,” Arizumi wrote. “As I explained we need two classes for the payment to Mr. Drowning Bear.” 

As of 2:42 p.m. on Sunday, the registration page on myBama for the class sections listed five students as being registered for the 005 section and four for the 006 section, but it is unclear if these are enough students to secure the class.  

In the face of the possible cancellation, students shared their thoughts on the importance of the class. 

“I think it’s important to take the class, not just for Native students and language revitalization but for regular folk,” Kiana Younker, co-president of the Bama Indigenous Student Organization Network, said. “Language for Native people is so essential to culture and understanding.” 

Younker added that the class serves to make college students more well-rounded. 

“The purpose of college is to become a more well-rounded person … more worldly. That’s why we have programs like study abroad, and that’s why we have culture clubs,” Younker said. “That’s why there’s a language requirement, so we can understand other cultures through language.” 

Another non-Indigenous student, senior anthropology student Cody Preston said he took the class partly because he saw it as an important class to take.  

“A lot of these cultural practices are unfortunately dying out,” Preston said. “Cultures can only stay alive and vibrant for so long as people are actively participating in it. What I would want to say to anyone who is interested at all in the class is if you can make any sort of room in your schedule whatsoever, absolutely take that leap. Join the class. You will not ever regret it.” 

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