Outside of the home, it has been well over a century since the Lakota language has been the lens through which Lakota youth have been educated. But this school year, in reclamation of our Lakota language and the cultural blueprint within it, we established a pathway to educating our youth with a 100% Lakota education. Held in partnership with Red Cloud Indian School, this groundbreaking Immersion Classroom provides a robust foundation for our students’ futures, both educationally and culturally.
Throughout the year the kindergarten students have been in a 100% Lakota classroom, learning to read sight words, expanding their math skills, practicing their penmanship, and building the skills that will help them succeed later in life. But additionally, the students’ curriculum included Lakota songs, stories, virtues and more. The school year concluded with a graduation ceremony in which each child was presented with a different Lakota value (pictured below). Next year the Immersion Classroom expands, moving our new graduates into First Grade and moving our oldest cohort at our Lakota Immersion Childcare Program into kindergarten. As the children continue to grow, so will our partnership, adding in new grade levels and students each year.
Although the children’s education is going to remain predominately Lakota, they will have a required English course incorporated into their curriculum to prepare them for the bilingual demands of their lives. We recognize that English is the primary language in higher education and the current job market and we want to sufficiently prepare them for those expectations, however having Lakota one of their primary languages will benefit them immensely as well. Studies show that children who learn their heritage language have higher self-esteem and lower dropout rates, in addition to experiencing the benefits that multilingualism has on the brain.
Their Lakota education will be the foundation for building the rest of their lives, with English as a resource for achieving academic and career-based goals. Throughout their lives they may encounter those who doubt the usefulness of the Lakota language or do not understand the importance of Lakota perspectives, but through songs such as this one they sang at their graduation, they can remember that no matter anyone’s thoughts on who they are, they can take pride in themselves.
Makȟásitomniyaŋ Lakȟól wičhóȟʼaŋ kiŋ othéȟike ló
The Lakota way of life is difficult all over the world
Iná, Até maLákȟota kéyap(i) čha blihémičʼiye ló
But my mom and my dad, they said I'm Lakota, so I take courage (do my best)
Song by Sissy Good House