Less than 3% of the Lakota community speaks Lakota fluently. Thunder Valley CDC’s Lakota Language Initiative is working to raise that number with the Lakota Learners Immersion Childcare program at the core. The childcare, where all language used is Lakota, is based on First Nations Immersion, bilingual and language development research. One goal of the childcare and preschool is to create first language learners instead of teaching Lakota as a second language. Children whose first language development is Lakota have the ability to gain fluency more rapidly and master pronunciation at the vital point in language development. This language foundation, created by the language nest, surrounds the children in their culture’s native language.
In addition, Lakota Language Initiative has implemented programs in their community including 2nd Language Learners education, especially for families with children in the childcare, to support language development, and created curriculum for the childcare and a group of childcare graduates are headed to elementary school, continuing their immersion education.
The childcare has developed from a “make it work” initiative, to a model of starting a program that can lead to developing new crop of fluent language speakers.
Peter Hill, the Language Coordinator, says, "Lakota isn't just a language we use to talk about the distant past, it is also a language we can use to discuss everything from biology to plate tectonics, everyday life to astrophysics. It has just as much relevance today as it did a hundred years ago.
Read more about Thunder Valley projects.
Ted Talk: “Saving the Lakota Language through Immersion Education” (video), Peter Hill, November 16, 2015
News: Black Hills Fox News, “Lakota Immersion Daycare” (video), Steve Long, March 11, 2016
News: Smithsonian.com, “This News Website Is a Lakota- Speaker’s ‘Dream’”, Erin Blakemore, March 21, 2016