The written word starts with images and characters being shared, understood and repeated. These evolve into alphabets and words. Words become written language. With written language comes literacy, and with literacy comes learning.
Marc Case never stops learning. He’s studied everything from nursing and graphic design to masonry and business administration. What he’s learned about his native Cherokee syllabary language, which uses characters to represent syllables, could fill a book. Actually, it did.
He grew interested in syllabary language at 18. Based in Yokosuka, Japan, as a U.S. Navy corpsman, getting around was hard without knowing the Japanese symbols. (Cellphone translators didn’t exist yet.)
After leaving the Navy, Case enrolled in a licensed practical nurse (LPN) program in his hometown of Tahlequah, Okla., only to be recalled during Operation Desert Storm. He eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration at Northeastern State University. Working with the Veteran’s Administration, Case was sent back to Japan and the base where he’d been stationed before.
This tour, he says, was like watching a movie for the second time. He saw things he missed on the first trip. The similarities between the Cherokee and Japanese languages became obvious.
Returning home, he wrote a book, Let’s Learn Cherokee: Syllabary. While other publications address the 84-character Cherokee syllabary, Case’s technique incorporated the method he used to learned to read and write Japanese. He’s since written Let’s Learn Cherokee: Numbers and Counting and developed flashcards.
‘A great confidence booster’
Case grew up in a Cherokee-speaking home where the written language wasn’t passed on. He started working on his first book while taking care of his elderly mother, who never had the opportunity to learn the written language.
Prior to the introduction of their syllabary language by Sequoya in 1821, the Cherokee people could not communicate through the written word.
“At the turn of the century between the 1800s and 1900s,” Case adds, “a lot of natives’ kids were put into boarding schools, and they were forced to only speak English, to read and write English and to go to church. The goal was to assimilate the natives into American culture, and so those children were not allowed to teach their children their language or the culture or anything about Cherokee.”
Publishers were reluctant to pick up his book, telling him it wasn’t scholarly enough. That’s the point, he explains; the publication is designed for fast, simple assimilation regardless of age or exposure. Case decided to self-publish. His works are now available on his website and through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
During a period of personal struggle for Case, a counselor suggested he go back to school. Using his veteran’s benefits, he signed up for the masonry program at Tulsa Technology Center’s Lemley Campus, learned about SkillsUSA and became involved in its Pin Design contest.
Case, who earned a national silver medal this year in the college/postsecondary division, has enjoyed the visual arts since elementary school. This interest led to him running a T-shirt design and screen-printing business.
“Winning second place in a competition on a national level against bright and talented students is a great confidence booster,” he says. “Having the support and confidence of my advisor and classmates made me believe in myself and my ability.
“Winning has motivated me to continue my education in website design and apply myself to a greater extent this upcoming school year. Being involved in SkillsUSA is a great honor and wonderful learning experience.”
Learn more about Case’s publications at: www.simplycherokee.com.