Joining the Fight to Revitalize the Lakota Language

All students at St. Joseph’s learn the Lakota language in their Native American Studies class.

The Lakota language is dangerously close to extinction.

According to the Lakota Language Consortium, recent linguistic surveys and anecdotal evidence reveal there are only 2,000 first-language Lakota speakers remaining, on and around the reservations of North Dakota and South Dakota. This number represents less than 2% of the total Lakota population. 

Today, the average Lakota speaker is 65 years old. These existing speakers are dying and are not being replaced by new Lakota-speaking generations.

In 2015, St. Joseph’s Indian School joined forces with the Lakota Language Consortium to help save the Lakota language by giving our students the tools to become fluent Lakota speakers.

LaRayne, Native American Studies teacher, talks about the weather with students in the Lakota language.

LaRayne has taught St. Joseph’s Native American Studies classes for nearly two decades at St. Joseph’s and has seen the success of the new curriculum.

“Our students want to speak Lakota,” she said. “In class when a student hears someone speaking fluently, they just smile and say, ‘Wow! Keep talking like that!’”

In a supportive effort, we will now be following the language standards students are using in our communications with you, our generous supporters. For example, you have seen the word pilamayathank you. With the new spelling and diacritics, this will now be philámayaye thank you.

See what other popular words and phrases have changed and download your own FREE flashcards here.

There is promise the Lakota language can endure. As students grow in their language skills and become fluent speakers, it can move from endangered to thriving.

After all, the Lakota culture depends on it.

“Without language, there is no culture. We need language in our songs and our ceremonies. We need it in our hearts,” said LaRayne. “We need it in life.”

Philámayaye thank you – for supporting classroom and cultural opportunities like this for St. Joseph’s students.

Learn Lakota along with our students by watching Lakota Word Wednesday videos on YouTube and Facebook, or by downloading your very own flashcards for free!

Author: St. Joseph's Indian School

At St. Joseph's Indian School, our privately-funded programs for Lakota (Sioux) children in need have evolved over 90 years of family partnership, experience and education. Because of generous friends who share tax-deductible donations, Native American youth receive a safe, stable home life; individual counseling and guidance; carefully planned curriculum based on Lakota culture and individual student needs and tools to help build confidence, boost self-esteem and improve cultural awareness. All of this helps children to live a bright, productive, possibility-filled future.

2 thoughts on “Joining the Fight to Revitalize the Lakota Language”

  1. I barely get by with my meager SSA income each month. That said, I’m so grateful that my God led me to donate what I can each month for an extremely worthy cause. I’ve supported St. Joseph’s for several years now and it’s been a rewarding experience. I’m going to download the flashcards offered to better learn some of the native Lakota language being taught to these wonderful students at St. Joe’s. Thank you for keeping me informed of all the beautiful things you are doing for these truly native Americans!

    1. We appreciate your support so much — and your kind words. We hope you enjoy learning Lakota with us! You can also view Lakota Word Wednesday videos on our Facebook page if you’d like to here Lakota words and phrases spoken. Check it out! http://www.stjo.org/facebook.

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