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Associated Press, Published November 27 2010

Lakota language program gets grant

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Language, Tipiziwin Young will tell you, has the power to heal broken cultures.

Especially on South Dakota’s nine Indian reservations, where poverty, alcoholism and violence continue to shatter lives and homes, Young is convinced that the Lakota language can be their salvation.

“Lakota is the language our creator gave us,” Young, who wants to become a Lakota language teacher, says from her Fort Yates, N.D., home. “There is a beauty and power in our prayers, our songs and our words. ... that I think can be very healing.”

Officials at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion and Sitting Bull College in Fort Yates see those possibilities, too. That’s why they are developing bachelor’s-degree programs to train teachers of Lakota as a second language.

The two schools have been awarded a four-year, $2.4 million grant by the Department of Education to institute the programs beginning next year and, within the initial four years, to educate 30 new Lakota language teachers.

The grant will pay for one instructor at each school – a Lakota linguistics expert for USD and, at Sitting Bull, an instructor specializing in second-language methodology. The schools will be able to share the instructors, either through distance learning or possibly some travel, officials say.

The grant also will allow 16 Native American students at USD and 14 at Sitting Bull College to receive $2,000 a month for two years to pay their tuition, fees and living expenses

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime shot to build an important teaching force in the state,” said Wil Meya, executive director of the Lakota Language Consortium, an Indiana-based collaboration among tribal leaders, linguistic experts and second-language education officials to revitalize the Lakota language.

Meya, whose consortium helped put the grant request together and works on everything from teacher training to textbook creation, said there are more than 120,000 potential Lakota speakers in the Northern Plains.


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