TULSA, Okla. (AP) Call it a little bit of culture on the front of a baseball cap.
In efforts to preserve and promote its language, the Cherokee Nation has created baseball caps depicting the logos of three Oklahoma universities written in Cherokee.
Fans of the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University or Northeastern State University can purchase the hats for $14.99 each at several Cherokee gift shops across the state.
And the caps, which hit stores last week, are already being snapped up by shoppers. By Monday, about half the 720 hats ordered had been sold, and at least one store reported it was out of the OU brand.
About 70 cents of each dollar from the merchandise will go back to the nation for education, job creation, health and social programs, such as Cherokee language immersion classes offered in Tahlequah to 4-and 5-year-olds.
"You're always teetering on the edge unless you keep this thing up, you're in danger of having your language die out," said Amanda Clinton, a spokeswoman for Cherokee Nation Enterprises, a unit of the Cherokee Nation that designed the ball caps.
At Northeastern State, which shares its home base in Tahlequah with the Cherokee Nation, the caps take on a greater significance: the university is believed to offer the nation's only four-year Cherokee language degree program.
"Each year, Northeastern State University confers more degrees to Native American students than any other publicly funded university in the United States," NSU president Larry Williams said in a statement. "NSU has students representing 29 tribes on our campuses, and we enjoy a unique historic connection to the Cherokee Nation that has helped to define this institutions rich culture and traditions."
Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, said the caps are a way to show pride both in the Cherokee heritage and a favorite university.
"One of our goals as a nation is to make use of our language on a day-to-day basis," Smith said. "These hats are a symbol of that idea, and their popularity is a sign of our progress towards that goal."
Hats can be purchased at several Cherokee retail, casino and tobacco shops in Catoosa, Tahlequah, Fort Gibson, West Siloam Springs and Roland.