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Arts & Culture

The Effort To Save The Cherokee Language

Jakeli Swimmer in front of his classroom.
Liz Schlemmer
/
WUNC
Jakeli Swimmer, one of the Cherokee language instructors Liz Schlemmer interviewed.

Of the nearly 16,000 enrolled members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, fewer than 300 can fluently speak the Cherokee language. Most of those speakers are over the age of 50 and think their heritage language is on the brink of extinction.

WUNC education policy reporter Liz Schlemmer traveled to western North Carolina to meet with two Cherokee language instructors and understand the depth, breadth and motivations of their work. She shares her reporting with host Frank Stasio and profiles instructors Jakeli Swimmer and Micah Swimmer who are working against the odds to preserve the Cherokee language.

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