Thirteen Moons in Cherokee

Sunday’s Raleigh News and Observer reported the interesting news that a section of Charles Frazier’s new novel, Thirteen Moons, will be translated into Cherokee. Apparently, it will be the first novel ever to be published in that language.

The majority of publications in the Cherokee language appeared in the 1840s and 1850s, many the work of the Mission Press in Park Hill, Oklahoma. These were primarily translations of the Bible, religious tracts, and hymnbooks. After the Civil War there were some legal materials published in Cherokee, including a set of the laws of the Cherokee Nation, but publications in the native language dwindled until a resurgence of interest in Cherokee in the late twentieth century.

Many of the more recent publications in Cherokee have focused on language instruction, with some clearly aimed at younger readers: in 1975 the comic strips “Blondie” and “Beetle Bailey” appeared in booklets in the Cherokee language. The University of North Carolina library holds several recent Cherokee language instruction books, including “How to Talk Trash in Cherokee” (Downhome Publications, 1989).

Perhaps with this continued interest in the language, combined with the inspiration and example of Frazier’s novel, it won’t be long before we see a novel composed in Cherokee.