The 40th annual Lakota Nation Invitational is now underway in Rapid City. The week-long event brings tribes from all over the area to honor Lakota values and traditions. There are basketball tournaments, art displays, and even a Lakota Language Bowl.
Lakota youth ranging from kindergarten to high school use the language bowl to show off their Lakota speaking skills.
The elementary student contest in the Lakota Language Bowl includes a game similar to Charades. Peter Hill, the event moderator, says a word in Lakota and the children act it out.
In this case, Hill asked the children what sound a dog makes, and they answered accordingly.
There are not just children here. Lakota elders are also in the audience laughing alongside the students.
Darlene Helper grew up speaking Lakota. Today she is a translator at the Lakota Immersion School in Oglala. Helper says this event gives her hope for the future of the culture. She says maintaining the Lakota language and traditions can help solve issues like drug and alcohol abuse.
“I know there’s a peer pressure out there, but on the other hand, if we know our Lakota virtues and values, if we keep those in hand, you know all these children here are going to grow up to know who they are and probably expand and learn and be more self-sufficient that way they can hold a career and make especially the reservations a better place to live,” says Helper.
Helper says the Lakota language helps young people self-identify with their Native heritage. She says the self-identity crisis is a major issue within the Lakota nation, but she says Lakota people continue to heal.