UNC’s foreign language requirement is a misnomer for students taking Cherokee classes — they are studying the only language offered by the University that is native to North America.
Tom Belt, a visiting instructor of Cherokee at Western Carolina University, said the classes were first offered at UNC in the fall of 2009 in an effort to revitalize the language because it is close to dying out — there are only a few hundred speakers in North Carolina.
“We would be here, still be Cherokees, but the central core of our culture would be gone,” he said.
Belt teaches five levels of the class at UNC via webcam.
Chris Teuton, an American studies professor and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, said it was important for the flagship university of the state to not only teach, but also fight for the heritage language of the 14,000 Cherokee people living in North Carolina.