- Associated Press - Friday, September 27, 2019

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) - The new chief of the Cherokee Nation plans to invest $16 million into the Oklahoma-based tribe’s language preservation program, including a new cabinet-level position focused on its language, culture and community.

Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. announced the “Durbin Feeling Cherokee Language Preservation Act” in a statement on Friday. Feeling is a leading Cherokee linguist and one of an estimated 2,000 people the tribe currently identifies as “first-language” speakers, or those whose native language is Cherokee.

The new plan includes a $5 million renovation of the former Cherokee Casino Tahlequah building into a new language center, and a $1.5 million annual appropriation for the next five years for its operation.

The largest American Indian tribe in the United States, the 370,000-member Cherokee Nation is headquartered in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

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