Over 300 people from over a dozen different Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota nations from the prairie provinces and the United States are at Dakota Dunes Conference Centre this week discussing language revitalization.
The 5th annual Revitalizing Our Sacred Language (Oceti Sakowin – Iapi Wakan Unkitawapi Piya Niunkiyapi) gathering is running over two days for Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota speakers to share best practices in the reclamation, revitalization, preservation, and strengthening of their respective languages.
MBC Radio News spoke with Frank Royal, councilor for Whitecap Dakota First Nation, and a member of the planning committee for the annual gathering.
“I know each nation is trying to revitalize their language,” said Royal. “We are using this gathering to share stories and ideas on how to revitalize our language.”
While Royal didn’t want to speak to efforts on other languages he says the Dakota language in the province has been progressing. He says 6 students from Whitecap recently finished a Dakota language program from the University of Minnesota.
Royal also spoke on the new high school curriculum for Dakota language recently introduced in the province.
“It means a lot,” said Royal who hopes to see more curriculum added for all ages, not just high school. “It would be great for them to keep learning.”
Royal says there is a handful of fluent speakers from Whitecap Dakota First Nation and he wants more members to learn from these speakers – himself included.
“It would be nice for people to start learning and carry that on,” he said pointing to the importance of these gatherings in bringing all these fluent speakers together.
When asked on what is the most important thing moving forward for Dakota language revitalization Royal says it is mainly about getting youth involved in their language.
“We have to get them out their to learn and get involved,” said the band councilor. “I wish I started learning when I was younger… we need more young people.”
The two-day gathering will conclude on Tuesday.