PIERRE, SD — A bill to designate South Dakota’s official indigenous language is on its way to the House floor.
SB126 says “The official indigenous language of the state is the language of the O’ceti Sakowin, Seven Council Fires, also known by treaty as the Great Sioux Nation, comprised of three dialects, Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota.”
Testifying in favor of the bill Wednesday before the House State Affairs Committee, Sen. Troy Heinert, D-Mission, said that for years Native Americans were beaten or abused if they tried to use their indigenous language.
“Thankfully, for us, there’s people who are trying to hang on” to the language, Heinert said.
Heinert explained that Lakota, Dakota and Nakota are dialects, noting the subtle differences in the word “friend” in each one. “It’s the same language.”
Amos Charging Cloud, 7, spoke to the committee in his language, saying, “Whenever I speak Lakota my heart is good.”
His teacher, Blue Little, said she has sometimes been ashamed of her heritage because of the boarding school era when students were not allowed to speak their language.
Referring to Amos she said, “He has never been afraid to be Lakota.”
The bill passed through the committee on a 13-0 vote.