There are currently roughly 290,000 Cherokee people in the world today.  But only about 8,000 of those tribal members speak the Cherokee language.  A disturbing trend that tribal leaders hope to reverse with a little help from modern technology.

Tribal leaders began petitioning the folks at Apple to include Cherokee on its official list of languages supported by Apple products such as iPhones, iPods and iPads. It was a long shot. Apple products currently support only 50 languages, none of which is a Native American language.  

But the Cherokee tribe is no stranger to using modern technology to keep their language alive. The tribe obtained a printing press in 1828 to publish the bilingual newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix.  Just as their printing press used the modern technology available at the time to bring the language to tribal members of all ages, today's tribal leaders saw a partnership with Apple as a way to keep kids interested in speaking and writing in Cherokee.

Their persistence paid off a few months ago. Thanks to Apple's notorious secrecy, tribal leaders didn't even know that their request had been granted until the release of iOS 4.1 a few months ago.

Now, teachers at the Cherokee Nation language immersion school in Tahlequah, Okla., use their iPhones to text students in Cherokee after school, parents can text their kids in Cherokee, and teens can text each other in their native tongue.  

Will iPhones help save the Cherokee language?  What do you think?

iPhones may help save Cherokee language
Apple partners with Native American tribe to develop Cherokee language software for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.