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Native Sun News: New Oglala leader announces language plan

Filed Under: Education | National
More on: bryan brewer, languages, native sun news, oglala sioux, south dakota

The following story was written and reported by Brandon Ecoffey, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe’s president-elect, first-time politician Bryan Brewer, speaks Nov. 15 during the opening of the fifth annual Lakota, Dakota, Nakota Language Summit in Rapid City. Brewer unveiled a monumental — and unprecedented — policy that seeks to address renewal of the Lakota language on the Pine Ridge Reservation. PHOTO ARDIS MCRAE, NSN STAFF

Brewer hits ground running
Announces groundbreaking Lakota language plan
By Brandon Ecoffey
Native Sun News Staff Writer

RAPID CITY — Just weeks before he officially takes office, Oglala Sioux Tribe President-elect Bryan Brewer has already made an unprecedented move.

Brewer on Thursday, Nov. 15, made a pledge to make major reforms in regard to Lakota language policy and revitalization on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

The announcement of this historic action fittingly came at the opening of the fifth annual Lakota, Dakota, Nakota Language Summit held in Rapid City Nov. 15-17 at the Best Western Ramkota Hotel & Conference Center, located at 2111 N. La Crosse St. The conference’s sole purpose is the examination of ways to revitalize Native American languages.

The newly elected Oglala Sioux tribal president is calling his new policy the “Presidential Lakota Language Revitalization Initiative.”

In a statement released just prior to the formal Nov. 15 address, Brewer said: “I believe that the continued survival of the Lakota people — spiritually, culturally and politically is contingent on the survival of our language. As the incoming President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe I will not waste time debating the need. We will move with purpose and conviction and all of our resources to address this challenge.”

The initiative identified by Brewer will focus on four elements that his administration has identified as necessary for success if the initiative is going to be sustainable. The first being involvement by the tribe in the mobilization and coordination of existing resources, leading to the development of new resources to help revitalize the language.

Secondly, the initiative calls for the identification of fluent Lakota language speakers. Brewer hopes to involve them in the process of language revitalization as well as provide compensation for their efforts.

Thirdly, that the Oglala Sioux Tribe advocate at the federal, state and executive — meaning the White House — levels on behalf of Lakota language.

The final element of Brewer’s plan is the involvement of educational institutions across the reservation in the process. The extremely progressive plan by Brewer is the first of its kind in the region.

In the past, several other indigenous communities in New York and Canada have found great success in reinvigorating the use of traditional languages through the use of language immersion schools. These schools have been praised by community members and academia alike for their success in both revitalizing Native languages, and sustaining cultural practices that become threatened when traditional language use diminishes in Native communities.

Immersion schools were first developed in the 1960s but have been used in Native communities more and more recently to address the issue of Language loss. In these immersion schools the primary language used in instruction and learning is often a second language, and in the case of Native American communities the language is the traditional one of the people.

The Presidential Lakota Language Revitalization Initiative calls for the use of these immersion schools on the Pine Ridge Reservation. “It will be the policy of the Bryan Brewer administration to create maximum opportunity for Lakota language revitalization. A central piece of this policy will be supporting the establishment and operation of Lakota immersion schools,” said Brewer.

Brewer also proposed the establishment of a reservation-wide Lakota Language Commission. The commission would be made up of Lakota speakers, educators and cultural experts from each of the nine districts on the reservation whose purpose will be the development of the necessary policy infrastructure needed to implement the Lakota Language Revitalization plan.

In a break from the usual political posturing, Brewer also pledged a willingness to tweak his policies after receiving feedback from experts in the community.

“I am sharing my viewpoints today as an attempt to provide a framework — a starting point — for the purpose of laying some markers down. These ideas can be changed, modified, and the people — especially you the fluent speakers — will have the final say on the course that we take,” said the OST president-elect.

“At the end of the day the Oglala will decide what will be carried into the future and what will be left behind. Our future and the future of our languages will be decided by our actions, our choices, our prayer and how much energy we devote to saving what was given us,” Brewer said.

Brewer will be sworn into office Dec 5.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

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