In the 1960s, Cherokee scholars Jack and Anna Gritts Kilpatrick collected over 2,000 texts in their language. Their goal? To capture Cherokee life and language in 20th century Oklahoma.
The papers included everything from stories to shopping lists. Most were handwritten, and some were already 70 years old.

Yale University bought the Kilpatrick Collection in the early 1980s. They planned to include it in the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Unfortunately, organizing the papers was difficult. The Kilpatricks were native Cherokee speakers; most librarians aren’t. And, without digital copies of the text, they couldn’t include the pages in search engines or catalogs.

So, in 2015, Yale launched an experiment: Transcribe@Yale. They scanned parts of the papers in the Kilpatrick Collection and put them online. Now, people around the world can transcribe the text. Best of all, Yale is sharing the transcriptions under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. This means that anyone can use this language data, for free.

7000 Languages connected with Yale’s Digital Humanities Center in 2016. Our platform from Transparent Language has excellent tools for creating lessons based on text. Most endangered languages, though, don’t have a rich collection of writings like this one! We wanted to know if we could turn the Kilpatrick materials into interactive Cherokee lessons.

Yale agreed, and they’re setting up a search system that will make the texts even easier to find and use. We’re updating our tools so that Cherokee teachers across the US will be able to create lessons based on these real-world Cherokee texts.