A new Cherokee-Language Cartoon, created in a partnership between the Cherokee Nation, the Oklahoma Film + Music Office, and FireThief Productions, an independent film company responsible for the Emmy-winning “Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People” TV program, is set to premiere September 4. The animated series, “Inage’i” (Ee-nah-geh-ee), which translates to “In the Woods,” will premiere its pilot episode at the inaugural Drive-in Movie Nights hosted during the 68th annual Cherokee National Holiday.
The project was funded by the tribe as part of its Durbin Feeling Language Preservation Act to preserve and revitalize the Cherokee language.
The story follows the adventures of four animal friends who live together in the forest of Turtle Island. Iga Daya’I, the mischievous rabbit; Juksvsgi, the gruff wolf; Anawegi, the conscientious deer; and Kvliwohi, the wise bear, are characters drawn from rich Cherokee storytelling tradition.
CNFO worked with the creators during pre-production of the series pilot, providing them with its Native American talent database as producers looked for voiceover talent.
“It is so important that our Cherokee people see themselves represented in the media. The Cherokee Nation Film Office is committed to seeing that through, and this event is just one way we are working to ensure that happens,” said Jennifer Loren, director of the Cherokee Nation Film Office.
“Preserving and perpetuating the Cherokee language for future generations requires new avenues that allow us to both share and teach the language,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. told Tahlequah Daily Press, “This partnership has produced an animated series pilot that I believe will grab the attention of children and adults alike. Whether they are introduced to the Cherokee language for the first time, or re-introduced to a language that they are already familiar with, we are excited about the groundbreaking possibilities this series will create for the Cherokee language in the years to come.”
Another Cherokee premiere, the short film “Totsu (Redbird)” is set to release this September. Like “Inage’i”, the production of “Totsu (Redbird)” hired Cherokee nation members for cast and crew members.
The film is written and directed by Cherokee Nation citizen Jeremy Charles and produced by FireThief Productions, a Native American-owned and -operated film production company located in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Why is this important to him? Charles spells that out by saying, “Television and film are a major cause in the diminishing of Native languages, including our Cherokee language. Our people have rarely seen or heard themselves in the media. Think of what that does to a culture — to never be seen. These days there are a lot of us who recognize that we have to make films in Cherokee, and cartoons, and make them high quality so that they compete head to head with contemporary English media. So that’s what I’m trying to do: to take this opportunity I’ve been given to create content in Cherokee. It’s going to take a lot of us doing it, but that is the way forward.”