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Sequoyan: Decolonial Epistemologies in Cherokee Writing

Ellen Cushman (cushmane@msu.edu) Co-Editor, Research in the Teaching of English Cherokee Nation Citizen and Former Sequoyah Commissioner Professor, Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures, Michigan State University

Introduction In 1821 a Cherokee man named Sequoyah invented a non-alphabetic writing system, the Cherokee syllabary, to counter the growing influence of alphabetic writing. Drawing on six years of ethnohistorical research with my tribe in Oklahoma, USA, this paper presents the evolution of the Cherokee writing system (!"# $%&') from script, to print, to digital forms through an analysis of three artifacts drawn from a corpus of thousands of pages. Analyzed using decolonial theory (Mignolo 2003, 2011; Baca 2008; and Baca and Villanueva 2010), these artifacts reveal instrumental, linguistic, and historical features that earmark Cherokee writing. This research extends discussions of indigenous language survival (McCarty 2011, Reyhner 2009) as it compliments sociolinguistic and anthropological approaches to non-alphabetic writing systems, which demonstrate the changing nature of writing technologies within and across language boundaries. Everyday uses of Sequoyan have continued a legacy of codifying a decolonial epistemology, one that challenges monolinguistic assumptions and policies typical in the United States. If approached from a Western epistemology that presumes an alphabetic bias, artifacts written in Sequoyan empty of meaning rather quickly. The problem is in approaching it literally, that is, by the letter, as though these were letters to begin with. What does Sequoyan mean? cant be answered well through a typical process of translation, so the questions become: How does it mean to Cherokees? And what does it do? Exploring these questions requires a delinking from modernist thought that privileges literacy above all other symbolic and graphic systems of representation and created tradition as its own exteriority, its necessary other, in order to, as Mignolo (Delinking) finds: ensure the inside as the locus of enunciation of knowledge. Tradition is not a way of life that predated modernity but an invention of the rhetoric of modernity (472). To understand Sequoyan in its own right, then, has demanded understanding how the writing system works to codify non-alphabetic Cherokee logics that predate modernist thinking. Works Cited in Presentation
Baca, Damian. 2008. Mestiz@ Scripts, Digital Migrations and the Territories of Writing. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Baca, D., & Villanueva, V. 2009. Mestiz@ scripts, digital migrations and the territories of writing. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. Baca, D., & Villanueva, V. (Eds.). (2010). Rhetorics of the Americas. New York, NY: Palgrave. Bauman, James. 1980. A guide to issues in Indian language retention. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics. Bender, Margaret. 2002. Signs of Cherokee Culture: Sequoyahs Syllabary in Eastern Cherokee Life. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Burnaby, Barbara. 2007. Aboriginal Language Maintenance, Development, and Enhancement. Stabilizing Indigenous Languages. Flagstaff, Az: Center for Excellence in Education, 21-38. Cantoni, Gina. 2007. Stabilizing Indigenous Languages. Ed. Flagstaff, AZ: Center for Excellence in Education. Canagarajah, Suresh. 2006. The Place of World Englishes in Composition: Pluralization Continued College Composition and Communication. 57(4): 586-619. Cushman, Ellen. 2010. The Cherokee Syllabary from Script to Print. Ethnohistory 57(4) (Fall): 62550. . 2011b. The Cherokee Writing System. Written Communication (July): forthcoming. . 2011c forthcoming. The Cherokee Syllabary: Writing the Peoples Perseverance. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK. . 2011d. New Media Scholarship and Teaching: Challenging the Hierarchy of Signs. Pedagogy 11(1): 6380. Daniels, Peter, 2009. Grammatology. In The Cambridge Handbook of Literacy, ed. David Olson and Nancy Torrance, 2545. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Feeling, Durbin and William Pulte (ed). Cherokee/English Dictionary. Tahelquah, OK: Cherokee Nation Press, 1975. Mignolo, Walter D. On the Colonization of Amerindian Languages and Memories: Renaissance Theories of Writing and the Discontinuity of the Classical Tradition. Comparative Studies in Society and History. 34.2 (1992): 301-330. ---. Mignolo, Walter D. The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options. Duke University Press Books, 2011. . Delinking. Cultural Studies. 21:2-3 (2007): 449-514. . "Epistemic Disobedience, Independent Thought and De-Colonial Freedom." Theory, Culture & Society. 26.7 (2009): 1-23.

WRAB: Writing Research Across Borders University of Paris, Paris, France

February 19-22, 2014

Sequoyan: Decolonial Epistemologies in Cherokee Writing


Ellen Cushman (cushmane@msu.edu) Co-Editor, Research in the Teaching of English Cherokee Nation Citizen and Former Sequoyah Commissioner Professor, Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures, Michigan State University

Figure 1: Extrait de la range d'arrangement initial de Sequoyah de longhand et stnographie caractres produits pour John
Howard Payne, circa 1839. Avec l'aimable autorisation du Muse Gilcrease, Tulsa, OK.

Figure 2: Extrait de la "Cherokee Alphabet" imprim dans le Cherokee Messenger en 1844.

Figure 3: Extrait dun article de Wikipedia sur !"#$ /Sequoyah/.

WRAB: Writing Research Across Borders University of Paris, Paris, France

February 19-22, 2014

Sequoyan: Decolonial Epistemologies in Cherokee Writing


Ellen Cushman (cushmane@msu.edu) Co-Editor, Research in the Teaching of English Cherokee Nation Citizen and Former Sequoyah Commissioner Professor, Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures, Michigan State University

Introduccin
En 1821, un homme du nom de Cherokee Sequoyah invent un systme d'criture non alphabtique, le syllabaire Cherokee, pour contrer l'influence croissante de l'criture alphabtique. S'appuyant sur six ans de recherche ethno-historique avec ma tribu en Oklahoma, Etats-Unis, cet article prsente l'volution du systme d' criture Cherokee (!" # $%&' ) partir du script, imprimer, des formes numriques travers une analyse de trois artefacts tirs d'un corpus de milliers de pages. Analyss en utilisant la thorie dcolonial ( Mignolo 2003 , 2011, 2008 Baca, Baca et Villanueva 2010), ces objets rvlent des caractristiques instrumentales , linguistiques et historiques affecter criture Cherokee. Cette recherche s'tend discussions de la survie des langues autochtones ( McCarty 2011 Reyhner 2009 ) car il complimente approches sociolinguistiques et anthropologiques de systmes d'criture non alphabtique dmontrer que la nature changeante des technologies de l' crit dans et travers les frontires linguistiques. Utilisation quotidienne de Sequoyan ont continu de codifier une pistmologie dcolonial un hritage, conteste monolinguistic hypothses et politiques douteuses. Si aborde dans une pistmologie occidentale qui suppose un biais alphabtique, objets crits dans Sequoyan vide de sens assez. Le problme est dans l'approche la lettre, c'est par la lettre, comme s'il s'agissait de lettres pour commencer. Qu'est-ce que Sequoyan signifie ? 'Ne peut pas tre bien rpondu travers un processus typique de la traduction, de sorte que les questions deviennent: Comment a signifie pour Cherokees? Et que fait-il? L'tude de ces questions, il faut une dconnexion de moderniste pensaient que les privilges alphabtisation dessus de tous les autres systmes symboliques et graphiques de reprsentation et a cr la tradition comme son propre extriorit, il est ncessaire de l'autre, afin de, comme Mignolo ( La dconnexion) constate: assurer l'intrieur comme le lieu de l'nonciation de la connaissance. "La tradition n'est pas un mode de vie qui a prcd la modernit, mais une invention de la rhtorique de la modernit ( 472 ). Pour comprendre Sequoyan dans son propre droit, alors, a exig de comprendre comment le systme d'criture fonctionne codifier logiques Cherokee non alphabtiques qui sont antrieurs la pense moderniste. Oeuvres Cits
Baca, Damian. 2008. Mestiz@ Scripts, Digital Migrations and the Territories of Writing. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Baca, D., & Villanueva, V. 2009. Mestiz@ scripts, digital migrations and the territories of writing. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. Baca, D., & Villanueva, V. (Eds.). (2010). Rhetorics of the Americas. New York, NY: Palgrave. Bauman, James. 1980. A guide to issues in Indian language retention. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics. Bender, Margaret. 2002. Signs of Cherokee Culture: Sequoyahs Syllabary in Eastern Cherokee Life. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Burnaby, Barbara. 2007. Aboriginal Language Maintenance, Development, and Enhancement. Stabilizing Indigenous Languages. Flagstaff, Az: Center for Excellence in Education, 21-38. Cantoni, Gina. 2007. Stabilizing Indigenous Languages. Ed. Flagstaff, AZ: Center for Excellence in Education. Canagarajah, Suresh. 2006. The Place of World Englishes in Composition: Pluralization Continued College Composition and Communication. 57(4): 586-619. Cushman, Ellen. 2010. The Cherokee Syllabary from Script to Print. Ethnohistory 57(4) (Fall): 62550. . 2011b. The Cherokee Writing System. Written Communication (July): forthcoming. . 2011c forthcoming. The Cherokee Syllabary: Writing the Peoples Perseverance. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK. . 2011d. New Media Scholarship and Teaching: Challenging the Hierarchy of Signs. Pedagogy 11(1): 6380. Daniels, Peter, 2009. Grammatology. In The Cambridge Handbook of Literacy, ed. David Olson and Nancy Torrance, 2545. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Feeling, Durbin and William Pulte (ed). Cherokee/English Dictionary. Tahelquah, OK: Cherokee Nation Press, 1975. Mignolo, Walter D. On the Colonization of Amerindian Languages and Memories: Renaissance Theories of Writing and the Discontinuity of the Classical Tradition. Comparative Studies in Society and History. 34.2 (1992): 301-330. ---. Mignolo, Walter D. The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options. Duke University Press Books, 2011. . Delinking. Cultural Studies. 21:2-3 (2007): 449-514. . "Epistemic Disobedience, Independent Thought and De-Colonial Freedom." Theory, Culture & Society. 26.7 (2009): 1-23.

WRAB: Writing Research Across Borders University of Paris, Paris, France

February 19-22, 2014

Sequoyan: Decolonial Epistemologies in Cherokee Writing


Ellen Cushman (cushmane@msu.edu) Co-Editor, Research in the Teaching of English Cherokee Nation Citizen and Former Sequoyah Commissioner Professor, Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures, Michigan State University

Figure 1: Extrait de la range d'arrangement initial de Sequoyah de longhand et stnographie caractres produits pour John
Howard Payne, circa 1839. Avec l'aimable autorisation du Muse Gilcrease, Tulsa, OK.

Figure 2: Extrait de la "Cherokee Alphabet" imprim dans le Cherokee Messenger en 1844.

Figure 3: Extrait dun article de Wikipedia sur !"#$ /Sequoyah/.

WRAB: Writing Research Across Borders University of Paris, Paris, France

February 19-22, 2014