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This article was published 12/11/2014 (980 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
SIOUX VALLEY DAKOTA NATION — As a little girl, Doris Pratt remembers growing up listening to her parents speak Dakota.
Fast-forward years later, she is now part of a proud group of community members struggling to keep the language alive in Sioux Valley Dakota Nation.
"It’s never too late," Pratt said. "We’re still losing the language... now we’re just putting a big effort into using it."
As the Sioux Valley Elementary School’s elder adviser on education, Pratt helped introduce Dakota language teachings to the school’s kindergarten to Grade 6 students starting in September.
"You can’t measure success after one or two months, you have to give it time, but it’s working," she said.
Like most indigenous languages, Dakota is slowly diminishing as a spoken language among community members. With that in mind, the community’s elementary school has made a commitment to incorporating it into everyday classroom teachings.
Sioux Valley Elementary School principal Bernice Ledoux makes most of her morning announcements in Dakota. Posters with phrases such as "help your mother" or "ni hun okiya" and "where are you going?" or "tokiya da he?" cover classroom walls and hallways to serve as reminders for students.
The Sioux Valley High School in Brandon also educates students in Dakota traditions, including culture and history, through offering an accredited Dakota language course for student in grades 7 and 8.
Pratt said the key to learning any language is encouraging staff and students to speak it as often as possible.
"Speak the language, let the children hear it," she said, "They’re the ones that are going to bring it back."
Pratt is also the author of several Dakota language resource materials, some of which are now being passed around during a weekly Dakota language class for youth and adults.
For the first time, free Dakota language classes are being held at the Wichozoni Centre Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Costs associated with the classes are being shared among health, self-government and employment and training programs. Classes are scheduled to continue until March 31, 2015.
Sioux Valley Coun. Jennifer Bone said the classes are a result of a desire within the community to keep Dakota culture and traditions alive.
"We want to bring back the language," she said.
So far, anywhere from five to 19 participants have attended classes to learn how to say words, phrases and full sentences in Dakota with help from three instructors and the assistance of community elders.
Sioux Valley Chief Vince Tacan said he sees this as a "community-based approach" to learning the language.
"It’s people who have an genuine desire to learn the language because it’s important to them," Tacan said.
"Because of that they’ve had some pretty good participation... people are showing up."
However, Bone said she would like to see more youth attend the classes.
"We have a lot of fun with it and everybody gets involved and that’s the main thing," she said. "It builds a lot of confidence.
"It’s a sign of a community working together and wanting positive things."
— Brandon Sun