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Lakota, A Living Language, Keeps Culture Relevant And History Alive

Photo courtesy of Lakota Language Consortium

For a language to survive, it has to live, and a living language has to change. Speakers of the Lakota language made that realization generations ago and coined new words for new concepts.

Today, a consortium of teachers, speakers, and learners continue that work, to keep the language alive and growing.

At a weekend Lakota language workshop, instructor Ben Black Bear, Jr. says that a living language keeps a culture relevant.

Listen to audio below for the rest of this story.

"It's often said that our language is spiritual. The Creator gave us the opportunity to express ourselves with that language. Our spirit inspires us, our mind creates, and out come the words we want to share with each other." --Jesse Taken Alive--

Lakota Summer Institute Set For Three Weeks in June

An organizer with the Lakota Language Consortium says language is more than words; encoded in those words are the speakers' culture, song, and ways of being.

Credit Photo by Victoria Wicks
Yuliya Manyakina

Yuliya Manyakina was in Rapid City this weekend for a Lakota language workshop, one of three events leading up to the 10th annual Lakota Summer Institute in June.

Manyakina says the Consortium creates educational opportunities and materials for those who want to keep the Lakota language, and culture, alive.

She says there's worldwide interest in Lakota, and the Consortium wants Lakota to be as available for learning as other languages such as Spanish and French.

The Consortium is developing a standardized curriculum for K-12 schools, as well as workbooks and audio recordings for adult learning.

"Right now, our biggest project is we're working on a comprehensive Lakota grammar: 600 pages, and over 20,000 example sentences," Manyakina says. "And we're hoping to release it in September."

Yuliya Manyakina explains the adult curriculum for Lakota language

This summer, starting June 6, the Consortium hosts the three-week Lakota Summer Institute at Sitting Bull College and Fort Yates.

Manyakina says teachers, students, and beginners will have access to about 30 classes, which are offered free of charge except for a nominal fee for registration, and for optional college credits.

Rapid City freelancer Victoria L. Wicks has been producing news for SDPB since August 2007. She Retired from this position in March 2023.