Our People


Cherokee Language Program Director, Sara Snyder Hopkins (Seli) is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Sociology and Director of the Cherokee Language Program at Western Carolina University where she teaches Cherokee language and linguistic anthropology courses. She received a PhD in Music (Ethnomusicology) from Columbia University in 2016 with extensive coursework in linguistic anthropology at NYU. Hopkins is the editor for the forthcoming Cherokee Singing Book (1846): A Scholarly Edition (under contract with UNC Press in the Sounding Spirit series). She is also the Project Director for Eastern Cherokee Histories in Translation (ECHT), which has received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Heisse Historical Preservation Fund, and the Cherokee Preservation Foundation. Hopkins founded and co-directs the Cherokee Language Repertory Choir. Prior to working at WCU, she worked for five years as the music and arts teacher for New Kituwah Academy, the Cherokee language immersion school for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina. Contact info: slsnyder@wcu.edu, McKee 105C

Cherokee Language Instructor, Rainy Summer Brake (Ꭰ), has worked in Cherokee language revitalization initiatives for over fifteen years. After completing a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature at East Carolina University, Rainy moved to Cullowhee to attend Western Carolina University, where she studied TESOL, with an emphasis on applied linguistics. After studying the Cherokee language and receiving a Graduate Certificate in Cherokee Studies, she became the first certified K-5 teacher at New Kituwah Academy, the Cherokee language immersion school located on the Qualla Boundary. For ten years, she taught elementary school students in Cherokee language immersion along with first-language speaker Louise Brown (). For the past three years, Rainy has worked at Western Carolina University as the Cherokee Instructor. She continues to partner with Louise in the classroom and they continue to create curriculum materials to teach WCU students about Cherokee language and culture. Contact info: ebrake@wcu.edu, McKee 105A

First-Language Cherokee Speakers  

ᏕᏂᎵ Tom Belt (Cherokee Nation) 

ᏃᎵ Wiggins Blackfox (EBCI) 

ᏲᎩᏏ Louise Brown (EBCI) 

ᎺᎵ Mary Brown (EBCI) 

ᎺᎵ Marion “Jody” Taylor (EBCI)