Thursday, June 4, 2020

Eagle Butte

“Tatanka and other Legends of the Lakota People” distributed to SD second graders; Oceti Sakowin to be recognized as SD official indigenous language

BROOKINGS, SD  – South Dakota second graders will soon receive copies of the 2019 Young Readers One Book “Tatanka and Other Legends of the Lakota People” from the South Dakota Humanities Council.

The book is the first in the history of the Young Readers program to be made available in both Lakota and English, and its recipients will read it this summer to prepare for presentations this fall by author Donald F. Montileaux.

By the time school starts again, Lakota, Dakota and Nakota will have become the state’s official indigenous languages.

“It seems very serendipitous that the state is adopting the language of the Oceti Sakowin as South Dakota’s official indigenous language as we offer, for the first time, a Lakota version of our Young Readers One Book,” said Jennifer Widman, director of the South Dakota Festival of Books. “This provides a great opportunity to share some of the earliest stories of our state in their original language.”

Gov. Kristi Noem signed a bill to recognize Oceti Sakowin, made up of the dialects of Lakota, Dakota and Nakota, as South Dakota’s official indigenous language starting July 1.

‘Tatanka’ Made up of Three Books

“Tatanka and Other Legends of the Lakota People” is a bind-in of three books authored and illustrated by Oglala Sioux Tribe member and Rapid City resident Donald F. Montileaux. Published by the South Dakota Historical Society Press, the book is set to arrive in schools this spring. Montileaux and his translator, Agnes Gay, recorded the audio version of the book at Rapid City’s Flat Iron Recording in early April. Montileaux read the book in English; Gay read it in Lakota.

South Dakota is the third state to adopt an official indigenous language, joining Hawaii and Alaska.

As reported by the Argus Leader, Oglala Sioux tribal councilwoman Nakina Mills emotionally testified to the Senate State Affairs Committee in favor of Senate Bill 126 before it was eventually passed and signed by Gov. Kristi Noem.

“It took over 100 years, four generations, for my son to be able to have the Lakota language be a part of his life,” she said during the hearing. Mills’ son is learning the language in Red Cloud Indian School’s Lakota immersion program. She said her great-grandparents were prohibited from speaking Lakota — and punished if they did so.

Faith Spotted Eagle, of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, told lawmakers the bill would especially benefit young tribal members.

“The important thing is to support (the bill) and understand that you come from a land that is called Dakota, and Dakota means ‘the people,’” Spotted Eagle said. “It’s been a long time coming. For me, in my 70th year, it is going to make me happy because it’s going to open some doors for the little ones sitting out there and across South Dakota.”

Opening Doors for Students

Opening doors for young readers is a primary goal of the South Dakota Humanities Council, which hosts a variety of reading programs and the annual statewide South Dakota Festival of Books. Cultural education and inclusivity are a priority, which is one of the reasons the organization chose Montileaux’s book in English and Lakota.

SDHC’s 2019 common read for adults — Kent Nerburn’s “Neither Wolf Nor Dog” — also explores Native American themes and traditions. Nerburn, a past Festival of Books author, became fascinated with tribal traditions after visiting Red Lake Ojibwe reservation to help students collect the memories of the tribal elders. His experience eventually led to the creation of the Minnesota Book Award-winning “Neither Wolf nor Dog,” which was named as the 2019 One Book South Dakota in December.

Told from a multicultural perspective, it’s the story of three men — two Native and one non-Native — who are on a journey to understand each other. Readers around the state, including those participating in SDHC-funded book club programs, will read and discuss Nerburn’s book leading up to the 2019 South Dakota Festival of Books Oct. 4-6 in Deadwood, where he’ll be featured as the keynote speaker.

Young Readers Program Started in 2003

Since 2003, SDHC’s One Book program has encouraged people across South Dakota to read and discuss the same book through the year, while the Young Readers One Book program began in 2014 to encourage youth reading and combat summer reading loss.

In 2019, SDHC is expanding its efforts to provide copies to more students, including to youth who live on the nine Indian reservations in South Dakota. Montileaux hopes “Tatanka and Other Legends of the Lakota People” will bring various forms of enlightenment to readers of all ages in South Dakota.

“Being of mixed cultures, both which are rich in storytelling, I hope that people will first look at this book as a fun to read book; secondly that it makes them stop and appreciate the story that is unfolding, with the use of English and Lakota language and enticing them to want to research the stories more — to find out more facts that cast a light on other cultures that have a rich and wonderful background,” he said.


The non-profit South Dakota Humanities Council, founded in 1972, delivers humanities programming to South Dakotans. As a steward of the state’s heritage, the Council promotes the exchange of ideas to foster a thoughtful and engaged society and the appreciation of South Dakota history, literature and the humanities. The council works through grant-making and cultural programs, including the South Dakota Festival of Books and One Book South Dakota. Learn more at