Documenting Endangered Languages

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian collaborated with the National Anthropological Archives at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History from 2006-2012 to digitize more than 9,000 pages of Cherokee language materials.  Most were collected by James Mooney on the Qualla Boundary in the late 1880s, from members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. These documents include songs, a few stories, lists of words, letters, and medicine formulae.  About 2,500 pages are available online at this time.  (At the request of the Elders’ Committee of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, medicine formulae are not published online by the Museum.)

To see these documents, type  “Documenting Endangered Languages” in Museum Online Archival Catalog.

Some materials are written in syllabary by Will West Long, who assisted Mooney with translation.  Other materials are in Mooney’s handwriting and orthography.  Materials in the Cherokee syllabary include handwritten materials by different individuals using the cursive syllabary.

Some of these materials were published in “The Chronicles of Wolftown” by Jack and Anna Kilpatrick.  Some were published by Mooney in Cherokee Myths, Legends, and Sacred Formulas.  The Museum plans to publish a glossary of 1700 words collected by Mooney and edited and annotated by Shirley Oswalt, Mary Brown, Janie Brown, and Barbara Duncan.

The Documenting Endangered Languages project was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and by the Museum of the Cherokee Indian.