Roger State University’s public TV station will begin broadcasting a Cherokee language educational program Monday, the first televised language course of its kind.

Cherokee I will air at 11 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during RSU’s spring semester. Taught by Cherokee Nation Language Technology Specialist Wade Blevins, the 48-episode series will offer basic grammar and vocabulary for beginners in the Cherokee language.

The Cherokee Nation Language Program will award certificates of completion for viewers who register on the Cherokee Nation website and complete the program’s associated quizzes with a score of 80% or higher.

“This is the kind of educational opportunity public TV stations should be doing,” said Royal Aills, general manager of RSU Public TV. “What’s really unique is RSU Public TV is the only public TV station in the country doing this.”

Last fall, the tribe announced $16 million in new spending to increase efforts to save the native language, with only 2,000 first-language speakers left. And that was on top of the $6 million a year that the tribe was already spending to promote the language, with efforts including a Cherokee Immersion Charter School, a Master Apprentice Program for adults and a radio show called “Cherokee Voices, Cherokee Sounds.”

Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. hopes eventually to have regular TV programs in Cherokee, not just for educational purposes but for entertainment, when there are enough fluent speakers.

“Preserving and perpetuating the Cherokee language will take a tremendous amount of resource, so it’s exciting to see partnership opportunities such as this come along,” Hoskin said. “Teaming up with Rogers State University gives us new avenues for teaching the Cherokee language, and that means more and more Cherokees — and perhaps even those who are not Cherokee — have easy access to this beginners-level course.”

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