In the privacy of your car there is a thing you can do. Drive down Main Street, like usual, but when you are alone in your car, slow down, stop near one of the new banners and read aloud the words. Simple words. Each is a proper way to greet the people you have gone to school with or lived next door to for the entirety of your life. How gracious it would be to know one single word of their language and to demonstrate it by speaking "Hello" to them in theirs.
The tribes who were forcibly moved to Ottawa County gave up a lot when they came. So many tribes in this slice of what would end up being named for one of those tribes. But with so many all at once thrown in together, what language would dominate? As it turned out, English came to be the standard and as such, many of these ancient languages went dormant for the most part in order for the once so distant tribes and the settlers who came to live here too, they all settled to that common language.
But within each tribal member throughout their lives have been the goal to base back not only to their culture but to regain their own language. There is a renaissance occurring around you. The tribes are claiming their place among you. They have partnered in a good way with the City of Miami and if you look at those words, you might see them planted on Main Street rather as a stake in the ground saying, "We are still here and we would like you to know it."
I myself am Cherokee and my hello, "O Si Yo" sits on that list, but like most of the readers, I will have to covey near a street pole and study the other greetings because I do not know most of them. But let's learn it together. Learning a new language not only makes you smarter, you exercise the part of your brain that you might have left dormant since you walked out of your last Algebra class. You also are recognizing and demonstrating respect to the people you know, perhaps love.
Let's be brave.
And if you can do that, then we will move on to lesson number two. I hope the next banners will be Thank you.
I owe a great deal of gratitude to a friend of mine who is one of the Cherokee speakers who have convened to construct new words for the language, just as the Webster dictionary has to decide which words to retire each volume, in order to include new words that have come into common use during that year, the Cherokees are cognizant language must grow in order to include these.
Twenty-seven years ago, Nancy Scott came to Miami High School about a program she was coordinating for the Cherokee Nation. Our school was eligible to participate because some of our Cherokee students lived on the other side of the Neosho River, in the Cherokee tribal boundary, now known as reinstated reservation land. Nancy had first gone to the Intertribal Council to find youth to be involved in the program, and some unknown person directed her to find me at the school.
Nancy brought Learn & Serve to MHS and with 6 Cherokee students, the Cherokee Volunteer Society was born and operated until I retired, and continued projects in classrooms for several more years, involving hundreds of MHS students in their classrooms until after the last project was completed, a book entitled: Disasters-Flood and Ice.
Learn and Serve students took on the needs of the community and did something brave and then taught others what they had learned. The cycle of learning. Recognize the need, research and learn, do something, after reflecting, tell what you learned and then in some way celebrate!
One of the first concerns was how to change the HS when 9th graders moved in. They took on recycling in a then "incinerator" city, then valued their culture and took on Tar Creek as a project that gained them and the school district national awards. But their efforts and dedication inspired me to pick it up, organize LEAD Agency and keep at it for the 2 decades since retirement.
All this spun into being because Nancy Scott walked in the door. She also inspired a generation of youth who now are the moms and dads, the leaders in city, business and the professionals right here.
You know people who have inspired you, so let's study these banners, our first lesson of 'Hellos" and wait with expectation on the "Thank you" banners that are bound to follow.
We have people to thank for the kindnesses and for the inspirations that they have been.
But they also taught us in some way to be brave. Use that gift and in some way pass on that legacy. Use it and speak up for yourself, yell if you have to, Join me if you would in hollering for a clean Tar Creek and a healthy environment for us all.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim