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There were a lot of firsts at the 68th annual Cherokee National Holiday in September. Pandemic precautions meant organizers had to get creative with events, launching the socially distanced “Drive-in Movie Nights” at One Fire Field in Tahlequah.

Other firsts included the world premiere of the sixth season of “Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People” as well as the Sept. 4 debut of an animated series in the Cherokee language, “Inage’I.”

Inage’i (ee-nah-geh-ee) translates to “In the Woods,” and is one of the latest efforts by the Cherokee Nation to preserve and revitalize the Cherokee language, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. says. The characters, formed from rich Cherokee storytelling tradition, were created by artist Roy Boney Jr., who also heads the Cherokee Nation’s translation department.

The most important fact to know about the Cherokee language is there are less than 3,000 first-language, fluent speakers left, Hoskin says, and most are age 50 or older. “You have to make the language accessible to people where they are, and I think this cartoon is something that people of all ages will appreciate,” he says.

The show was a partnership between the Cherokee Nation, the Oklahoma Film and Music Office and FireThief Productions, an independent film company based in Tulsa also behind the Osiyo series. Jeremy Charles, a Cherokee citizen, created FireThief in 2014.

“I’ve just taken it on as a mission for our company to really push more content (with the Cherokee) language because in order for a language to survive, you got to be able to use it,” Charles says. “Whenever you don’t hear your language every day and you don’t have any TV, or movies, you don’t really identify with the language and the culture.”

Learn more about Cherokee language immersion programs and revitalization efforts at language.cherokee.org, and stay tuned for future screenings, events and productions on the Cherokee Nation and FireThief social media channels. 

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