Lakota Language Consortium looks to revitalize dying language

RAPID CITY S.D. – Today, around 5,000 languages are spoken across the world. But linguists expect that number to drop drastically within a few centuries.

As it stands, the Lakota language is one of those quickly disappearing. But one group is working to preserve and grow the language for future generations.

The Lakota Language Consortium (LLC) held a session in Rapid City looking to revitalize the language which has been dying out. The LLC holds language weekends in communities across the country.

“There are still fluent speakers out there, but we have a mass decline of language speakers,” said Naomi Last Horse, one of the teachers for the LLC and a language teacher for Thunder Valley CDC.

During the session, around 60 people of all ages gathered at the Ramkota Inn to connect to the Lakota language. In the weekend crash course, people learn the basics of Lakota, giving them a springboard to explore the language.

Like with any culture, language is the method in which people communicate, written or orally. Last Horse said as the language dies out, the full understanding and context of Lakota music, art, and literature fades as well.

“It’s the lack of the implementation of the language in the homes,” Last Horse said, “And when the fluent speakers go, nobody replaces them.”

According to Last Horse, in 2006, there were an estimated 20,000 Lakota language speakers in the world. Today, there are less than 2,000.

Shania Black Bear is learning the language, and has been Lakota for around 2 years. She said leaning the language connects her to her cultural roots.

“I know there’s certain things I don’t have access to, being an English speaker, so it’s nice to know that I might know some of these things in the future, unlocking some of these things in the language,” Black Bear said.

Currently, Senate Bill 126 is making its way through the state legislature. It recognizes the language of the Oceti Sakowin, or Great Sioux Nation as the official language of South Dakota.

LLC staff said the bill could open the door for future state-funded programs to keep the Lakota language alive.

“With the language bill that just got passed, I believe there are more opportunities to implement the Lakota language, because its dying,” Last Horse said.

This may make the LLC a boiler plate for revitalizing the language.

“The people at LLC are amazing and are about the people are about broadening everyone’s horizons. Everyone needs to see that they’re on our side, they’re here for us to be bringing this back to our own people and that’s amazing.”

For more information about the LLC, click here.

(Cover photo courtesy LLC)

Categories: Local News, National News, South Dakota News