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Preserving oral traditions in the "Heart of All"

This interview posted above is from SDPB's daily public-affairs show, In the Moment, hosted by Lori Walsh.

This Spring, Little Wound School on the Pine Ridge Reservation released the seven-episode audio series "Heart of All"

The Lakota Oral History project features dozens of interviews with elders in the community. The goal is to preserve oral traditions of Lakota people and share them with a new generation.

Project director and teacher Mark Hetzel recognized a need in the community after speaking with students at Little Wound school. He discovered that many youth in the Pine Ridge Reservation did not have access to traditional stories and teachings.

"As an outsider, I thought the kids deserved to hear these stories as well. It was kind of the impetus behind the project," says Hetzel. "It seemed really vital that these valuable teachings come through."

Hetzel applied for and was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to help fund the audio series. He felt it was important that students and elders take leadership in Heart of All development. He says it was inspiring to watch students find their own links to the stories.

John Haas is an educational administrator and lent his voice to the project. "I believe that this is the movement in education, in our culture, and our history to preserve stories like this. Every family has history that's been passed down to each other. It's important for our people to hear them and pass them on again."

Some of the people featured in the the audio series have since died. Haas says that's why it's so important these oral histories are preserved.

Jessie Pullium was also interviewed for the project. She shared her experiences attending government boarding school and how her family's oral traditions gave her courage.

"I grew up with women who were strong, and they too went to boarding school, but they never really talked about it," Pulliam says. "Every once in awhile I would hear something about their experiences. I think because of what they told me, and because we were all women, I think my strength came from that."

Project leaders are exploring ways to convert the series into a teaching tool that can be used in classrooms. All episodes of the Lakota Oral History project are available now on the audio series website.

The final episode of the audio series features a poem by Little Wound graduate Zoey White. You can hear White's poem at the end of the attached audio clip.

Carl Norquist is a producer and writer for In the Moment. An EMMY-winning producer, Carl previously worked for KTIV News 4 in Sioux City, IA. Carl is a Minnesota native and graduate of Augustana University with majors in Art and English.
Lori Walsh is the host and senior producer of In the Moment.