WHITTIER, N.C.—In a cozy house in a bucolic valley, a handful of students gather weekly to learn how to speak the language of their Cherokee ancestors.
The Cherokee people once occupied a large swath of the southeast U.S. Most Cherokee, as well as neighboring tribes, were forcibly relocated by the federal government in the 1830s to what is now Oklahoma, an event known as “the Trail of Tears.” Some Cherokee avoided or escaped the removal and stayed in North Carolina, forming the basis for what is today the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, a federally recognized tribe.
But only 200 or so people are fluent now around the mountain town of Cherokee, N.C., out of the roughly 14,000 Cherokee who live in the area. “We’ve somehow got to learn some of it, because it’s part of who we are,” said student Louise Taylor Goings, 68 years old, who remembers hearing her parents speak to each other in Cherokee when she was little.
Read more: The Wall Street Journal