GRANT 301:

Saving Lakota Language Off the Rez

07/02/2018
Did you know that there are about 7000 languages in the world? Whoops, there went another, gone forever. They’re disappearing at the rate of one every two weeks. Over half will be gone before today’s newborn is as old as Jane Fonda.

Did you know that there are about 7000 languages in the world? Whoops, there went another, gone forever. They’re disappearing at the rate of one every two weeks. Over half will be gone before today’s newborn is as old as Jane Fonda.

Native languages are among the most vulnerable to extinction. Carel Two-Eagle is determined to save the Lakota language. Every Wednesday, people gather at the Veterans Memorial Public Library in Bismarck, ND, to learn to speak the language before there’s no one left alive who can. Two-Eagle says the average age of the people who can still speak fluent Lakota is 70. She says that Native languages preserve a culture’s soul, something that can’t be expressed in any other way.

This AWB grant will help supply texts and workbooks to the students, along with other classroom supplies. That means more Native people who can speak Lakota, who can read it and write it, and who will bring down the average age of Lakota literacy. One of the benefits of knowing one’s heritage is a sense of pride that seems to cut down on the problems that come when people have low self-esteem because of who they are.

Visit Two-Eagle when you’re at the Bismarck Library, and tell her we said “Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ.”

(Bonus: We learned about disappearing languages when we contributed to the making of this documentary.)