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One of the last monolingual Cherokee speakers dies at age 88

April 25, 2019
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FILE - In this March 14, 2014, file photo, monolingual Cherokee speaker Mack Vann, 83, holds the start of a handmade bow in the backyard of his hime in Briggs, Okla. Vann, among the last members of the Cherokee Nation who spoke and understand the Cherokee language and only the Cherokee language, has died at the age of 88. Nephew Gary Vann says his uncle died Monday, April 22, 2019, in a Tahlequah, Oklahoma, hospital of pneumonia while undergoing treatment of an ongoing heart condition. (AP Photo/Kristi Eaton, File)
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FILE - In this March 14, 2014, file photo, monolingual Cherokee speaker Mack Vann, 83, holds the start of a handmade bow in the backyard of his hime in Briggs, Okla. Vann, among the last members of the Cherokee Nation who spoke and understand the Cherokee language and only the Cherokee language, has died at the age of 88. Nephew Gary Vann says his uncle died Monday, April 22, 2019, in a Tahlequah, Oklahoma, hospital of pneumonia while undergoing treatment of an ongoing heart condition. (AP Photo/Kristi Eaton, File)

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) — One of the last members of the Cherokee Nation who spoke and understood only the Cherokee language has died at 88.

Mack Vann’s nephew, Gary Vann, says his uncle died of pneumonia Monday in a hospital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, while undergoing treatment for an ongoing heart condition.

Mack Vann would greet people with the word “osiyo,” the Cherokee word for “hello.” He was a descendant of Andrew Ross, brother of Cherokee Chief John Ross, who led the tribe from its ancestral home in Georgia to Oklahoma during the forced relocation known as the “Trail of Tears.”

He told The Associated Press in 2014 that he learned some English in school but quit after fourth grade to help with the family farm and slowly forgot how to speak it.