Moving Stories: Videos from the American South

First Language

A Film About the Race to Save the Cherokee Nation’s Native Tongue


Crew & Credits

Film by Neal Hutcheson and Danica Cullinan

Executive Producer Walt Wolfram

Associate Producers Hartwell Francis & Tom Belt

Run Time: 56:08
Release Date: 2014


Best Public Service Film - American Indian Film Festival

Audience Award - Red Rock Film Festival

Tar Heel Tie-In - Longleaf Film Festival

National distribution to PBS stations in 2016 via the National Educational Telecommunications Association


In 1830 the Indian Removal Act all but completely eradicated the Cherokee Nation from their homeland. Approximately 1,200 of them remained in North Carolina – while around 12,000 emigrated and an estimated 4,000 perished.

Now the Eastern Cherokees are faced with another threat to their culture. Though the Eastern Cherokee Nation is now 14,000 strong, a mere 200 are fluent speakers of their language. There’s a strong possibility that the language itself could be extinct within a mere generation.

We’re proud to show you the North Carolina Language and Life Project’s award-winning film “First Language: The Race to Save Cherokee,” the North Carolina Language and Life Project explores the unique challenge presented to this community, the threat that losing their language poses to their culture, and the measures they are taking to fight to keep their language alive.

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