The Oglala Lakota College is receiving a grant of $25,000 from a tribe in Minnesota. The grant money will fund the Lakota immersion school for kindergarten through fifth grade students on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Leaders want to prevent the loss of the Lakota language.
The Shakopee Native American tribe in Minnesota is helping fund the Lakota language program. The grant will allow around 30 children to learn their native language at the childcare facility.
Oglala Lakota College President Thomas Shortbull says the program began five years ago after the council of elders noticed a sharp decline in the number of native speakers.
“In the age group of 4-6, only 5 percent are speaking the language ,and those over 80 are speaking at about 80 percent. So in another 50 to 100 years we could lose the language," Shortbull says. "That’s the reason we started the language immersion program, so we can get more of our young people speaking the language.”
Shortbull says he believes teaching students their native language at an early age is important to the program’s success.
“The way it works is that you have to immerse the child so that the only thing they speak is their native language," Shortbull says. "We are making some success but it still is a huge challenge.”
Shortbull says the college plans to continue the program for the next 5-10 year while they have financial support.