October 07, 2011

Cherokees mourn Steve Jobs

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs leaves legacy in Cherokee language

By Christina Good VoiceThe Cherokee Nation lowered its flags to half mast Oct. 6 in honor of Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs, 56, who died Oct. 5 in California after a long battle with cancer.

For the Cherokee Nation, its work with Apple has resulted in the adaptation of the Cherokee language to modern technology and renewed hope that the language will not only survive, but thrive.

“As a Nation we are saddened by the news of Steve Jobs passing,” CN Secretary of State Melanie Knight wrote in an emailed statement. “Steve Jobs was an innovative and tireless leader who will be greatly missed. A company takes on the character of its leadership, and we believe that was the case with Apple. The company and staff believed in our language and the Cherokee people.”

In 2003, Apple began supporting the Cherokee language by including a font and keyboard in the company’s computer operating system, wrote CN Language Technologist Joseph Erb in an emailed statement.

“In 2010, Apple’s mobile operating system, now known as iOS, began supporting the Cherokee syllabary by including a font and keyboard as well,” Erb wrote. “Now, all iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches in the world include our language on them--out of the box.”
Cherokee Artist Roy Boney Jr. Reflects on Steve Jobs

By Roy Boney Jr.If one were to judge what features should be included on a device like the iPhone, the cold, hard numbers of the Cherokee population would be a strong argument against leaving out features like a Cherokee touchscreen keyboard and display font. We could’ve easily been ignored, and Apple would’ve continued raking in millions of dollars in sales.

The fact that Mr. Jobs, whose micromanaging and attention to detail was notorious, decided to include our language on his products is an amazing thing. Keeping our language relevant in the fast-moving mobile era provided a valuable tool in our effort to perpetuate our language. Apple’s support of Cherokee has even created opportunities for our language to be supported by other technology products such as Google’s search engine and Facebook. Since that day in September, I’ve literally used my language every single day.

Steve Jobs did a lot of things in his life. The media accolades and proclamations have been streaming in at a steady pace since the announcement of his death. One thing that may be lost amid the frenzy is what he did for the Cherokee language. I would ask that everyone out there that has an iPhone, an iPad, an iPod Touch, and even a Mac, which has supported our language since 2003, take a minute and honor Steve Jobs for helping create an avenue for our language to remain relevant in the lives of many modern Cherokees. It is by no means a savior for our language, but what a wonderful tool it has become. Send someone an email in the syllabary, or better yet, a text message in Cherokee. Use your language.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Webcomic on Cherokee Language and Google Searchable in Cherokee.

Below:  "An image from Roy Boney Jr.'s illustrated story on the Cherokee language from This Week from Indian Country Today's September 28 issue."

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