Racing To Save A Language

Lakota Language Nest, An Immersion School

Reviving A Language On The Knife's Edge Of Extinction
By Dakota for the North Dakota Humanities Council


It is the heart of winter on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation. Gleaming white snow blankets the landscape, the Missouri River has turned to ice and the crisp cold air somehow makes every sound sharper-the peal of a bell seems to carry an impossible distance from town-but the sounds of children playing, laughing and singing warms everything.

The children are in pre-school, ages three to four. Their high-pitched play echoes down the hall when their door opens. The pitch of little voices sounds like what one would hear in any other early child care service across the state, but listen closer and it becomes obvious that this isn't like any other day care service. The children speak a mix of English and Lakota amongst themselves, but the teachers strictly speak only Lakota in the classroom.

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