Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
Cherokee in Digital Devices
TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA - Cherokee is now represented in a global organization that impacts the way people use computers. The Cherokee Nation was recently named a liaison member of the Unicode Consortium, a nonprofit organization formed in 1987 to set international software standards. Membership in the consortium gives the tribe a voice in a global community of nations and technology industry leaders like Apple, Google and IBM.
As part of the tribe's Education Services, the Cherokee Nation Language Technology Program is tasked with supporting Cherokee in digital devices and its status with the Unicode Consortium will help promote growth in use of the language.
“Our program focuses on getting all kinds of technology to support the Cherokee language.”
Said Roy Boney Jr., a language technologist with the Cherokee Nation.
"So, we've done work with Apple to get Cherokee on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, and we've worked with Facebook to get some of the localization of that into the syllabary. We've worked with Google doing the same thing,"
"When Windows 8 comes out next year, it'll have a keyboard and font standard on all Windows 8 machines as well," said Boney's co-worker and fellow language technologist, Joseph Erb. "We work with major companies to make sure that when a product comes out our language has access to it."
Boney explained how Unicode works on a linguistic level and expressed how important it is to the Nation to have representation in the international community.
"With every computer system in the world - Apple, Windows, an open source like Lynx or whatever it is that you like to use - there's a language standard that they all follow, and that's set by the Unicode Consortium. What they do is they take every written character in every language that they support and they assign it a unique code number. So a computer knows if somebody's using Chinese, Japanese, Arabic or whatever it is, and Cherokee has been assigned numbers in that system, too. Basically the Unicode group governs what technology supports which language," said Boney. "We're the only tribal nation that's represented in the group. It's a pretty great distinction for the Cherokee Nation to be represented."
The Nation's involvement with the Unicode Consortium is expected to have a large and lasting impact on the Cherokee language.
“Everybody that uses a computer uses Unicode,”
“Cherokee is going to be on every major computer device.”
"In every society throughout history, the ones that survive have the best technology, and the ones that have weaker technology usually get swept up and disappear. We don't want to disappear. We want to make sure that Cherokee is a vibrant culture, a strong culture. We want to make sure that our language is strong and this gives us the ability to access our language and communicate as the rest of the world does. This gives us the ability to unite our people with social media and with email so that our next generation of Cherokees can communicate together in the language. It will actually tie our people back together with the language," continued Erb.
The consortium membership continues Cherokee traditions of innovation, ingenuity and adaptation.
"The Cherokee printing press was a major step in the Cherokee written language," said Boney. "The adoption by the Unicode group of Cherokee is a huge step like that, too. The printing press was the technology of the day for that era, and the Cherokee Nation used it and got the word out. We're doing the same thing. We're just using computer technology now. Unicode is the foundation for it."
posted December 15, 2011 6:40 am est
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