Canku Ota


(Many Paths)


An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


March 10, 2001 - Issue 31



Font Moves Cherokee Language into Digital Age




TAHLEQUAH -- The Cherokee language that has echoed across North America for centuries now resounds in cyberspace as well. In the week since it was placed on the Cherokee Nation web site, more than 1,300 people have downloaded a font that allows computer users to communicate in the Cherokee language.

"The Cherokee Nation has always faced adversity, survived, adapted, prospered and excelled," said Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. "Our language has survived decades of institutionalized effort by outside forces to extinguish it. In this digital age, we are adapting new ways to communicate in Cherokee so that our language, and our nation, will prosper and excel in the future."

The new font is styled as closely to Sequoyah’s original syllabary as possible. A team of dedicated employees from the Cherokee Nation’s Cultural Resource Center spent more than a year developing the best way to artistically replicate Sequoyah’s work and mapping the best way to place all 84 Cherokee syllables on a standard computer keyboard.

"It was like doing a puzzle," said Lisa LaRue, a member of the team that worked on the font. "We analyzed more than 7,000 Cherokee words and then placed the most frequently used syllables on the home keys and worked our way out. The least frequently used syllables are accessed with the shift key."

While the font is not unprecedented, the new Cherokee Nation font sets an official standard. However, the font alone won’t revitalize the Cherokee language.

"It’s not a cure-all," said Hastings Shade, Cherokee Nation Deputy Chief. "The font helps get everybody thinking in the right direction for the language. We have to create a real need to read and write Cherokee. The ones that read, write and speak Cherokee should be doing it on the job and in the community, and teaching the ones that can’t."

At the very least, the font will serve as a strong tool to preserve Cherokee language.

"It can be used easily in schools and for preparing teaching materials in Cherokee," said Tonia Williams, Cherokee Nation’s web master. "So much communication is done online or on computers. We have to help people use the Cherokee language to communicate digitally to make sure the language survives technological and social changes."

Many of the people who have downloaded the Cherokee font have emailed Williams with rave reviews.

"The work that has been done to save our language and culture is astounding to say the least," wrote Al Downing, a Cherokee tribal member from California. "To see the syllabary of Sequoyah available from the Cherokee Nation rather then from anyone else is history in the making."

"The font was well created and I am so proud to be a witness and be a part of Cherokee Nation history! Great job," wrote Mike Johnson.

To download the font, visit the Cherokee Nation’s web site at




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