The Cherokee language is now available for the first time on iPhones and iPods for more than 300 million users, Native American Times reports. The Cherokee Nation has been working with the software developers at Apple for several years to incorporate the nation’s written language, called the Cherokee syllabary, into Apple’s new technology. According to Engadget.com, Apple’s iOS devices currently support fifty languages. Cherokee is the first Native language to be added to the list.
Cherokee officials first contacted Apple about getting Cherokee on the iPhone three years ago, the Associated Press reports, but they weren’t certain the company was going forward with the idea until just before the September release of Mac iOS 4.1.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith compared the use of Cherokee on Apple devices to the creation of the syllabary by the Cherokee blacksmith Sequoyah in the early nineteenth century, and to the nation’s later purchase of the printing press.
“You always hear the cliche, ‘History repeats itself’,” Smith said. “This is one of those historic moments that people just don’t comprehend what is happening. What this does is give us some hope that the language will be revitalized.”
There are currently about 8000 speakers of Cherokee, and most of them are over 50. Like many other indigenous languages, once thriving, Cherokee is now endangered. The nation’s officials are determined to boost their native tongue and save it for future generations.
Smith himself has been known to text students in Cherokee, the Associated Press says, and school teachers do the same. Enabling students to communicate in Cherokee outside of the classroom is a huge step in the right direction and a part of a larger effort started by the Cherokee leaders in 2001, when they announced a new language immersion program in Oklahoma that currently has 105 students.
The Cherokees are at the forefront of language revitalization, and their successes are an inspiration for other Indian nations.