Keeping the Lakota/Dakota language alive with classes at UTTC

Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 6:42 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - When a language is lost, it can be gone forever. Now a group of people is striving to maintain the history and the Lakota language.

Here in this classroom, a Native language is being revived, on a coloring sheet or more advanced coursework where there is a space for every age in the community.

“It’s really inspiring. There are children here and people of all ages. I think it’s really inspiring. It means you can start at any age, it’s not too late. It’s never too late,” said Selena Silk, a sophomore at United Tribes Technical College.

Tom Red Bird grew up speaking Lakota which he says is rare nowadays, and is passionate about sharing it with young people.

“Our language is dying out, and we need to keep it going. Because our younger generations need to know our language,” said Red Bird.

The class has provided personal growth and knowledge for its students.

“So, Lakota’s we have this saying... What that means is, Lakota way of life is difficult but valuable. And so, going outside of your comfort zone and learning allows you to grow but you only grow if you go outside your comfort zone,” said Tanner Veo, a junior at UTTC.

There are more than 10,000 words in the Lakota language and in each class new material is covered. Each new word learned is bringing people that much closer to their past.

“Learning the Lakota language, it’s a privilege, and not everybody has that and I recognize that. Being here and being a part of my tradition and culture is allowing me to invest my time into learning the language,” said Veo.

There are many ways to connect with culture, but some might say language is one of the most important.

“A lot of our people already know a lot of our traditions and our culture and the language might be missing, and so, it just provides that last link to make it all make even more sense to be able to connect to each other better,” said Nacole Walker, teacher.

“I would say that too,” said Red Bird.

They hope to spread the language into the homes one person at a time and eventually reach every home. The class is every Tuesday from six to eight and is open to anyone. It’s located on the UTTC campus in the Wellness Center Healing Room.