Driver (left), EBCI Beloved Woman, hands a copy of "Charlotte's
Web" which she translated into the Cherokee language to her
grandson, Taliquo Walker, on Wednesday, Jan. 6 as Painttown
Rep. Marie Junaluska, herself a fluent Cherokee language speaker,
Taliquo Walker, an EBCI tribal member and student at New Kituwah
Academy, opened a box on Wednesday, Jan. 6, and, in the process,
opened a new chapter for Cherokee language immersion students. The
box Walker opened contained 201 fresh-off-the presses copies of
"Charlotte's Web" translated into the Cherokee language, and he
was presented with the first copy out of the box by his grandmother,
EBCI Beloved Woman Myrtle Driver.
"It is probably the greatest accomplishment for me," said Driver
who translated the book. "It was three years in the making. I didn't
work with it every day because I'd have to stop and translate a
math lesson, a science lesson or another short story, and then I'd
come back to it, but, this was the most fun."
The project came out of a need. New Kituwah students are learning
to read in the Cherokee language, and as their reading levels increase,
they need books to read and there aren't many. The school needed
Bo Lossiah, curriculum specialist at the Academy, told the One
Feather at the beginning of the project, "I chose Charlotte's Web
to be the first children's chapter book to be translated because
it is a well-written and illustrated classic. It is a book for all
age groups that speaks to us about discrimination, kindness, the
natural process of death and friendship."
holds a copy of "Charlotte's Web" which she translated into
the Cherokee language.
New Kituwah got permission for the translation from the E.B.
White (author of the book) Estate with one book going to that Estate
and the remaining 200 being used by students. The book will not
be sold publically.
Charlotte wrote her messages in the Cherokee syllabary throughout
the book, and those illustrations were done by EBCI tribal member
Billie Jo Rich.
Driver said working on the book was an intensive process, "Every
time I would work on it, I would just immerse myself into the farm
and into the community where Charlotte lived. And, when she died,
She said that translating the book into the Cherokee language
required some changes. "You can't translate word for word. If you
translate it word for word, it wouldn't make sense because you have
to describe so many of the English words. It's impossible to translate
word for word."
This process took Driver back to a time in her life when Cherokee
was spoken more often. "There were times when I'd come across a
word and I'd have to go outside and walk around for about an hour
and then it would come to me. I tried to use as many of the old
words that we just don't use in everyday conversation."
Even some of the names in the book were changed to people that
Driver has known. "One example is Dr. Dorian. I used Amoneeta Sequoyah.
They used to call him Doc Sequoyah. He was considered a Medicine
Man. He and his wife were my foster parents for awhile, and he just
left a big impression on me."
Driver said she also included Cherokee culture and traditions
into her translation. "I tried to put as much Cherokee into it,
not only just the language, but how the animals respected each other,
how they spoke, and they spoke properly. Not only will they immerse
themselves, like I did, into the story, but they'll learn how to
treat each other and how to treat mankind."
"It was a joy."
Driver related that translating "Charlotte's Web" has made a
lasting impression on her. "I can't kill a spider anymore after
translating this book. Every time I have to take a spider web down,
I think of Charlotte."
"Charlotte's Web" was originally published in 1952 and was a
Newberry Honors Book in 1953.