Tuesday, September 17, 2019

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My perspective on Language and Education


As in Lakota protocol and respect for my younger and older relatives, I introduce my tiospaye, my community, my family and myself. My Lakota name given to me by late leksi Joe Flying By is Tasina Ska Win (White Shawl Woman) and I carry my grandma Ruth Thunder Hoop’s name. On my late ate’s side, I come from Hump, Roman Nose, Charging Eagle, Thunder Hoop and Walking Hunter tiospayes, who are descendants of Wounded Knee. On ina’s side, I come from the Fights the Thunder tiospaye (Cedar Woman-half sister to Tasunke Witko) and White Bull tiospaye. I grew up in Wicagnaka Sa (Red Scaffold) Oyanke and today I reside in my late parents’ home on our family homestead. Currently, I am the Tribal Education Agency (TEA) Lakota Language Project Director. This is a project funded by a TECA grant and the goal is to develop and build a PreK-12 Lakota Language infrastructure to assist the schools and programs of our communities.

With TECA funding, I am able to provide workshops and professional development in Lakota Language for the community in general, elders/speakers, and for the Lakota language teachers on Wakpa Waste Oyanke (CRST). In my observation as a classroom teacher and language teacher, there is a need for Lakota language teacher development in our educational institutions and programs like Head Start and Day Care. In the last two years, we have been able to bring in professional experts in Indigenous Language development in topics like Immersion program building, Lakota Sign Language, Immersion techniques and strategies, a forum to discuss the status of Lakota language on Wakpe Waste Oyanke. These experts are indigenous/native and are first language speakers of their respective tribes.

As a first language Lakota speaker, I was blessed as a Lakota winyan to be raised and live the thought and philosophy of our Lakota and as member of Oceti Sakowin. From childhood to now, the language has been an integral part of my life. It is the foundation of all I am and of my tiospaye. Lakota as a language is not only conversational, it is what defines me as an individual and as a woman. Therefore, it was natural that my late ina and ate (Lorraine Makes Trouble and Steve Charging Eagle) encouraged us to speak Lakota at home and community. They stressed the importance of acquiring the Wasicu (white man) way of learning and education.

On Wakpa Waste Oyanke (CRST), Lakota language is the language of our relatives who have gone on. Within the language is our history, our woope (natural law), roles and responsibilities, characteristics of society members that guide our tiospaye, therefore, guide our leadership and relationship with each other. That is how important language is.

To our Wakpa Waste Oyanke relatives who want to learn your language as a tribal member and as your inherent right, find an elder or community person who speaks and visit with them. Break status quo and visit an elder (maybe right in your own home or community) and learn. Ask that they speak Lakota as you visit. In the school and classroom, be a sponge and learn. Sometimes that is all we have are the pieces. As Lakota people of a strong heritage and an adopted one (English) we have the intelligence to learn if we decide that is what we want.

Hecetuwe.

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