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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.

Amanda Magnus grew up in Maryland and went to high school in Baltimore. She became interested in radio after an elective course in the NYU journalism department. She got her start at Sirius XM Satellite Radio, but she knew public radio was for her when she interned at WNYC. She later moved to Madison, where she worked at Wisconsin Public Radio for six years. In her time there, she helped create an afternoon drive news magazine show, called Central Time. She also produced several series, including one on Native American life in Wisconsin. She spends her free time running, hiking, and roller skating. She also loves scary movies.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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