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For Immediate Release: June 5, 2007
Contact: Mary Stadick Smith - (605) 773-7228

Lakota language program to help educators reach students

A new Lakota language immersion program aims to provide educators with an understanding of South Dakota’s unique American Indian culture. The program will be held June 24-29 at St. Joseph Indian School in Chamberlain. It is part of Governor Rounds’ 2010 Education Initiative.

“This is one step in our ongoing commitment to improving the educational outcomes of our American Indian students,” said Gov. Mike Rounds. “When educators are familiar with a culture, they can make students feel more comfortable in the classroom and pave the way for learning to take place.”

A group of skilled Lakota speakers – Francis Whitebird, Ben Black Bear Jr., Sandra Black Bear and Philomene White Lance – will lead the language immersion classes. The program will focus on how to speak Lakota rather than how to write it. Besides learning the language, participants will explore the history, song, dance and spirituality of the Lakota. They also will have an opportunity to participate in the sacred “inipi,” or sweat.

Twenty students will be allowed into the program. Students will receive free lodging and meals. Teachers and counselors of American Indian students, as well as students themselves, are invited to apply. Those who wish to take the course for college credit must pay for the credit.

During the 2007 legislative session, Gov. Rounds introduced a bill that called for establishing a revitalization of the American Indian language. “This pilot program will give us an opportunity to begin the process of language revitalization and give participating educators a better understanding of American Indian culture in South Dakota,” said Keith Moore, director of Indian education for the South Dakota Department of Education.

For more information or to register for the Lakota Language Immersion Program, contact the South Dakota Department of Education’s Office of Indian Education at (605) 773-8194.