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Cherokee Nation to Open $20M Durbin Feeling Language Center

Monday, November 14, 2022 - The Cherokee Nation is set to open the historic Durbin Feeling Language Center at a grand opening celebration at 10 a.m. Tuesday, November 15.

The Durbin Feeling Language Center will house all the tribe’s language programs under one roof for the first time.

The 52,000 square-foot building on Hwy. 62 in Tahlequah features 17 classrooms, a library, archive room, gym, playground and everything inside the building is written in Cherokee Syllabary.

The new language center is named in honor of the late Durbin Feeling, Cherokee Nation’s single-largest contributor to the Cherokee language since Sequoyah.

“Generations from now our descendants will judge us not by the size of our casinos, the expanse of our health system or the excellent things we do to address any number of challenges. They will judge us on whether we kept alive what it means to be Cherokee,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “Our language is part of that unbroken chain that links us back to our creation. This Durbin Feeling Language Center, will be the epicenter of our mission to ensure that our chain remains unbroken and we save and perpetuate our language.”

In 2019, the Council of the Cherokee Nation approved the Durbin Feeling Language Preservation Act, legislation introduced by Chief Hoskin and Deputy Chief Warner to provide an initial $16 million into preserving the Cherokee language. It is the largest language investment in Cherokee Nation history.

It is estimated that there are only about 2,000 fluent Cherokee speakers in the Cherokee Nation.

“This site will house our Cherokee language programs and the hundreds who come through its doors and occupy its classrooms will continue to carry our language forward,” said Deputy Chief Warner.

“Cherokee speakers like Mr. Durbin Feeling have laid such an incredible and immeasurable foundation for perpetuating the Cherokee language, and it is no small responsibility we now have to make sure it thrives for generations to come.”

The Durbin Feeling Language Center will house the Cherokee Immersion Charter School, the Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program, and the Cherokee Nation translation team, along with other programs and services offered through the tribe’s language efforts.

“For thousands of years our language has been influenced and supported by many people. Giants like Sequoyah and Durbin Feeling made sure we remained as a people,” Cherokee Language Executive Director Howard Paden said. “We currently have an administration-- a Chief, Deputy and Council who understand the vision that without our language we have no tribe and it is humbling to enter a building of this magnitude knowing that it is saving our sacred language and that we will protect its integrity and cause with everything we have.”

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