cherokee, revisited and relinquished

November 4, 2005

Cherokee Nation
Attn: Cultural Resource Center
PO Box 948
Tahlequah, OK 74465

Dear Cherokee Nation Cultural Resource Center,

It was thirteen years ago today that, in the midst of studying Cherokee antiquities at university, I received a grant to develop a computerized Cherokee font. With the $300, I purchased a font creation program, spent some time learning how to use it, and by the summer of 1993, completed the work. Unfortunately, my class had already ended, and other than my own personal research, I no longer had a direct need for my own work. I released it to the public domain, and put up Gopher and Web pages offering downloads and syllabary charts. It proved to be far more popular than I had expected. I’ve made many friends and acquaintances through the letters I’ve received regarding the font over the years.

Shortly after the release, Michael Everson took an encoding of Sequoyah’s font for the Cherokee language to the Unicode committee, including my work in his initial proposal. As a nineteen year old, it was a morale boost to know I could help the computer world grow, but even then I knew I could add nothing more to the discussion of code pages and preservation of cultural heritage that was not my own. Michael’s work has ensured that Cherokee has obtained its rightful place in the international UTF-8 standard.

It was with great joy and reverence that I then learned of the Nation’s own efforts, culminating in the release of your official font in 2001. Having taken hundreds of hours to produce my font, I respect what must have been the thousands of hours put in by the Cultural Resource Center to correctly design a keyboard layout. It was absolutely what the next generation Cherokee computer user interface required: attention to detail by the very people who speak and use the language daily.

About three months ago, I received a letter from a private publication, asking me about my font. He wanted to know who used it, and whether I thought it was suitable for current language research. Without hesitation, I told him that it was part of an old research project, and that I didn’t think it was suitable for anything these days but ornamentation and the odd tattoo. I directed him to your website, and to a Unicode Cherokee font listing online. I also asked him permission to publish that response on my website, but received no reply.

Rather than continue to wait for a reply, I am sending you this letter today. With all of the erosion of your language to date, I do not wish to muddy the waters any longer. I write to you today not only to offer extremely late congratulations on your font’s release, but to make it clear to you, and to my website’s visitors, that I am not Cherokee, and I do not pretend that my font is the best solution for any serious linguistic needs. I’m pleased to offer it to those who need a toy implementation, but for real language work, people should use your font, or a font using the UTF-8 standard encoding. As of today, I have revised the text on my website to include the text of this letter. I would have done so sooner, except that it struck me that anyone serious about the language would already have found other resources closer to the Nation on the Internet already.

As I turn to future endeavours, it is my selfish regret that I was unable to work with you and your team in the 1990s to hand over my work to you sooner. I attempted to contact the Nation back then, but ultimately nothing came of it. In the end, you have determined future on your own terms, drawing from your own world experience; I can think of no better outcome.

Joan Sarah Touzet

P.S. For many years I have gone by the nickname wohali, the origin of which is detailed on my website. I realized shortly after adopting the nickname that it was an incorrect translation of “eagle,” the correct translation being uwohali. And while the name was given to me by someone of 3/4 Cherokee blood, I never inquired directly of someone associated with the Nation whether the name was correct, nor whether it was appropriate for me. My sincerest apologies if any action I have taken has offended you or any members of the Cherokee Nation.

cc: Dan Agent, Editor-in-chief, Cherokee Phoenix
cc: Cherokee Nation Webmaster

2 thoughts on “cherokee, revisited and relinquished

  1. I haven’t commented in ages but you still continue to fascinate me. Hope all is well with you and yours. Take me flying sometime, if you can.

  2. It is an absolute pleasure to see you here, and those trailers you posted are absolutely fantastic. I’m enjoying the eye candy too! Look me up next time you’re in town, we’ll go hunting for entertainment in the city together.

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