The Cherokee Nation unveiled plans for the new Durbin Feeling Language Center, in a building that once housed a casino.
Alongside the Center, the tribe plans to build 5 apartments designated for aging, fluent Cherokees, so they may help with the effort to preserve the language.
The Feeling Center will bring all Cherokee language programs under one roof, including the Master Apprentice Program, Translation Services and the Immersion School.
Durbin Feeling died this summer after a lifetime of work documenting the Cherokee language.
"Decades of work, preserving the language, translating the language, creating dictionaries when we didn't have them" said Cherokee Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. "Even up to the end of his life he was still working on the language."
One year ago, the Cherokee Nation obligated $16 million towards language protection efforts. $5 million of that will be spent to renovate and expand the casino building in Tahlequah.
A small group of cabins are being built for "first-language" Cherokees, who have spoken the language from birth. The cabins are designed for easy access for scholars and students. Hoskin said "And the idea is that it's strictly Cherokee over there, not just speaking Cherokee but living the lifestyle as a Cherokee community."
They are an estimated 2,000 fluent speakers left. "If we don't do something now, and we need to do more, in a few generations people will wonder why we didn't do more to save the language" said Hoskin. "To have all that language under one roof. I think it's going to create some synergy and opportunities to work together. I think it's key to saving our language."
Consolidating all of the language programs into one area was a goal of Durbin Feeling, said Hoskin, who said the first phases of the project will be done by January.