Next semester, Yale University will, for the first time, offer a Cherokee language class that will count toward the school’s language requirement.

Cherokee language instructor Patrick DelPercio, who currently teaches at the University of Oklahoma, will join Yale faculty in September 2023 to teach the course.

Although the university has offered informal Indigenous language courses in the past, this is the first time those classes will satisfy core requirements.

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“Other home speakers can take heritage language classes at Yale, but not Indigenous students,” Claire Bowern, the Director of Undergraduate Studies of Linguistics, told Yale Daily News. “Particularly for Indigenous students, it seemed very out of place that one can do one’s language requirement by studying languages from all around the world… except the Indigenous languages of the Americas.”

Indigenous students at Yale have been asking for their Native languages to count toward credits for years. In Fall 2015, Indigenous students and faculty at Yale founded the Native American Language Program “to bring more expansive Native American language training and programming to campus.” They offered community classes in: Cherokee, Choctaw, Native Hawaiian, Lakȟóta, Mohawk, Navajo, and Ojibwe. In 2018, they began petitioning the Center for Language Study for formal language courses in Native languages.

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