Project History

Our Beginnings

This initiative arose from and builds on work originating with indigenous peoples themselves; it closely involves the tribal representatives in its design and conduct, and its results are theirs. Although DAILP is hosted at Northeastern University, all aspects of the pilot of our site and subsequent use of this infrastructure takes their motivation and momentum from the work already being done by and in close collaboration with members of Indigenous Nations and communities.

The Digital Archive for American Indian Languages Preservation and Perseverance (DAILP) builds on a 2014 IMLS SPARKS Ignition planning grant by Ellen Cushman at Michigan State University, “Analyzing Ojibwe and Cherokee Manuscripts: Proof of Concept for a Digital Archive,” in which MSU faculty, tribal representatives, and Cherokee and Ojibwe community members created and tested designs for an interface to facilitate the translation of Cherokee and Ojibwe manuscripts housed in archives and libraries around the country. This process yielded a decision tree for selecting manuscripts and determining cultural sensitivity; a set of interface elements and an understanding of how navigational and organizational features affect usage by translators and language learners; and conclusions about methods for transcription and translation that can meet the needs of language learners, archivists, and scholars. In 2015 Cushman joined Northeastern University’s English Department and began working with the library’s Digital Scholarship Group (DSG) to explore the development of a full-scale archive of Cherokee manuscript documents aimed at language learning, preservation, and perseverance.

Where We Are Now

Over the spring and summer of 2020, we worked with translators from the Cherokee Nation to create an initial digital collection of over 25 Cherokee language documents including source images, transcriptions, translations, and linguistic annotations. In addition to annotating these documents with linguistic information, one of our major accomplishments has been creating a workstream that allows us to seamlessly encode our annotations into TEI in a digital format and developing the digital infrastructure to support this work going forward. We have standardized a process to convert our existing Cherokee document transcriptions into digitally accessible texts. Using these digital versions of the Cherokee texts, we have created a database and website that links Cherokee words together by meaning and displays this information in a way that can be used by language learners of all levels, in addition to scholars of linguistics and anthropology.

This sample collection contains five different genres of Cherokee writing, including funeral notices, church notes, letters, stories, and government documents, that can now be found online by learners of the language and scholars in the field. Each document can now be viewed online in a multi-layered format, from the perspectives of beginner, intermediate and advanced learners, to reveal document translations, word-by-word translations, and explanations of linguistic structures to help learners better understand how words and phrases are created in the Cherokee language. This online environment represents one possible product created as a result of collective translation efforts. We are working with tribal community partners, scholars, and archivists to make sure that this reading environment allows users to discover documents, read source documents and translations, search for words, and explore linguistic information for specific words.

Where We’re Headed Next

Using the digital environment we’ve created so far as a starting point, we will continue to work with the Cherokee community and our advisory board to improve our understanding of how this online learning space can be embedded in existing language-related practices, and to identify additional features that would enhance translation and language teaching and learning practices. To ensure that DAILP can be useful to a wide variety of end-users, this planning process will be conducted in collaboration with a variety of Cherokee language translators, readers, writers, and learners.

We are currently trying to create a digital edited collection titled Cherokees Writing the Keetoowah Way, that is rooted in the DAILP manuscript archive and its language data, but presents the documents through a reading framework that foregrounds genre, cultural thematics, scholarly and community contextualization, and commentary. We are also in the process of recording audio of all of our documents, so that learners can hear the words on the page, making pronunciation easier to learn and more accessible to those new to Cherokee. We are also working on integrating curricular materials onto our website, including exercises for writing practice and key cultural knowledge for understanding Cherokee people and culture. These curricular materials will use our historical documents to help learners find, read, write, and understand Cherokee in new ways.

We recognize that we do not have all the answers when it comes to the Cherokee language. Because of that, our next major goal is to transform our digital environment into a collaborative space where native speakers of the Cherokee language and scholars in the field can contribute their knowledge through collaborative authoring features. This will allow users to annotate documents at the character, word, phrase, and document levels and discuss these annotations with other users as a way of building knowledge and continually developing documentation of the Cherokee language.

Awards and Grants

We have been fortunate enough to receive funding and support from Northeastern University’s Tier 1 Seed Grant and the Undergraduate Research and Fellowship’s PEAK Awards. In Summer 2020, Naomi Trevino received a Summit Award, and in Fall 2020, Naomi Trevino and Taylor Snead both received Summit Awards. RISE:2021 awarded Naomi Trevino with the RISE Scholarship Award and Taylor Snead with the Data and Digital Storytelling Undergraduate Focus Award. In Summer 2021, Naomi Trevino received a Trail-Blazer Award and Henry Volchonok received a Summit Award.

As of February 2021, we have received support from The Henry Luce Foundation’s Indigenous knowledge initiative. Established in 1936 by Henry R. Luce, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time, Inc., the Henry Luce Foundation seeks to enrich public discourse by promoting innovative scholarship, cultivating new leaders, and fostering international understanding.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this website do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

This project was created using Gatsby with help from the Digital Scholarship Group at the Northeastern University Library
Last Updated on 10/06/2021 at 07:16 a.m.