Nation citizen Brian Barlow holds a squash in a Walmart store
in Tahlequah. Barlow is integrating the Cherokee language
into the store by translating the produce section into Cherokee
and placing Cherokee phonetics, community level phonetics
and the syllabary on produce labels. (photo by Kenlea Henson
- Cherokee Phoenix)
word for plums is written in the Cherokee language in the
produce section of Walmart in Tahlequah. Cherokee Nation citizen
Brian Barlow has worked with a Cherokee language specialist
to translate Walmarts produce into the Cherokee syllabary,
phonetic and community level phonetic. (photo by Kenlea Henson
- Cherokee Phoenix)
Nation citizen Brian Barlow stands next to a bank window that
has words written in Cherokee on it. Barlow says the Cherokee
language has become more and more important to him since being
involved with the tribe more in the past several years. (courtesy
TAHLEQUAH Cherokee Nation citizen Brian Barlow was awarded
a $10,000 Dreamstarter grant in 2017 to make a difference in his
community. Since then, hes been working to integrate the Cherokee
language into the towns Walmart.
Growing up in the CN capital, Barlow said hes seen less
and less of the Cherokee language being used, especially among the
youth. Through language classes in high school and tribal activities
such as the CN Youth Council and Remember the Removal
bicycle ride he said learning the Cherokee language has become important
to him. So when he heard about the Dreamstarter grant he knew it
would be the perfect opportunity to put forth his vision to engage
more youth with the language.
His idea was to integrate the language into Tahlequahs
Walmart by translating the produce section into Cherokee and placing
Cherokee phonetics, community level phonetics and the syllabary
on produce labels.
You can grow up in Tahlequah and not know any Cherokee,
and I dont think that should be acceptable. You should at
least know some words, Barlow said. So the idea is to
revitalize the language by putting it into the grocery store where
like grandma can take grandbaby to the grocery store and use it
as a teaching tool.
He said using phonetics rather than just the syllabary simplifies
it and make words easier to learn.
Syllabary can be confusing if you dont know how
to read it. Syllabary is really cool. Dont get me wrong. Sequoyah
was a genius, but I just dont think people have time to learn
it. So putting the phonetics in would help the learning process,
The Dreamstarter Grant is through Olympic gold medalist Billy
Mills organization Running Strong for American Indian Youth.
Each year, 10 American Indians under the age of 30 are awarded the
grant to aid nonprofit projects that will benefit their communitys
youth in some way.
Since receiving the grant, Barlow has worked with Cherokee language
specialists John Ross and Roy Boney Jr. to get Walmarts year-round
produce translated into Cherokee. As of now, he is working with
Walmarts marketing and licensing department to get the produce
labels to code.
If his idea is successful in Tahlequah, Barlow said he hopes
to implement the Cherokee language in other Walmarts in other Cherokee
communities such as Stilwell and Jay.
However, his vision isnt stopping there. He also said
working with a company like Walmart could open opportunities for
other Native tribes to put their language in their local Walmart
I think it would help tribal communities across the U.S.
Everyone has to eat. We all have to go to the store and get food,
so what better way than to the put language where the food is,
Barlow said he hopes to have the Cherokee language on produce
labels in Tahlequahs Walmart by Thanksgiving.
Nation citizen Brian Barlow squats next to produce in the
Walmart in Tahlequah. He is using a $10,000 grant to integrate
the Cherokee language into the stores produce section.
(photo by Kenlea Henson - Cherokee Phoenix)
Nation citizen Brian Barlow sits at a desk with a computer
showing types of produce in English, Cherokee phonetics, community
level phonetics and the Cherokee syllabary. Barlow hopes to
revitalize the Cherokee language by putting it Walmart so
it can be used as a teaching tool. (courtesy photo)