Eighteen First Nations in Canada and 17 tribes in the United States are descendants of the Oceti Sakowin that speak three main dialects, Dakota, Nakota and Lakota.

Many Dakota language speakers have gathered in Saskatoon this week, learning ways to revitalize and strengthen the use and teaching of the language.

The Whitecap Dakota First Nation has partnered with the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre to host the gathering.

Murray Long, Whitecap’s director of self-governance, says there are five main presentations during the gathering, with many opportunities to learn best practices.

“The presenters will be telling their stories of how they have strengthened the language in their communities and some of the techniques they have used,” said Long.

Participants are expected from all Dakota nations in Saskatchewan, including Wahpeton and Standing Buffalo. Dakota speakers have also come from Alberta, Manitoba and even from the northern United States.

Long says this is the first of what Whitecap hopes is many future gatherings.

“We just hope to get off to a good start, grow it over time, and let people know there are good ways to strengthen the Dakota language in their communities,” he said.

Over 200 people are expected for the two-day gathering.

(PHOTO: Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and Whitecap Dakota First Nation Chief Darcy Bear. File photo.)