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Lakota Country Times: Website helps keep Lakota language alive

A screenshot of Woihanble.Com. Woihanble means "dream" in the Lakota language.

LCT Continues Effort To Help Save Language
ByThe Associated Press with contributions from Lakota Country Times staff

PINE RIDGE-- As part of its continuous effort to do its part in preserving the Lakota Language, the only the newspaper based on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is now being reposted online and entirely in Lakota.

Through a partnership with the Lakota Immersion Daycare work published by Lakota Country Times will be reproduced entirely in the Lakota language and reposted on the internet. The new website hosting the content was created by the Lakota Immersion Daycare and is called The site is part of an effort by several cooperating media outlets and Lakota language advocates to normalize the use of the Lakota language across the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

"In recent year's Lakota Country Times has become aware of the state of the Lakota language and we have done our best to jump at every opportunity to do our part in the effort to save it," said LCT publisher Connie Smith. "We are very honored that our work will now be made more easily available to Lakota speakers everywhere."

The website's creators are involved in other efforts to promote the language, including a Lakota immersion day care on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota that's funded by federal, state and private grants. The website does not have specific funding on its own, but is considered part of the same project.

"Nowadays, everyone spends much of their daily life online; visiting websites, reading news, checking the weather, browsing social media, or any number of other activities," said Matthew Rama, one of the creators. "But until now, there has never been a site with as much content strictly in Lakota. So in that respect, we are bringing the language to the people in a brand-new way."

The site was created with a primarily Native American audience in mind is posting news, features, sports and weather entirely in Lakota — the first of its kind to do so — in an attempt to help preserve a language that after forced assimilation policies is now spoken by fewer than 2,000 people.

Lakota Country Times has made it an internal policy for writers to closely monitor and cover both legislation and funding opportunities involving immersion school learning designed to promote the use of the Lakota language. The pairing of LCT the Woihanble site works well for all entities involved.

"We are very excited to feature The work of Lakota Country Times on the site," said Rama. "The stories featured in Lakota Country Times are real-life accounts of the communities we work with. We look forward to assisting them in their efforts to preserve the Lakota language."

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The Lakota people say their language originated from the creation of the tribe, long before Europeans came to North America. But the number of speakers has shrunk through the decades, falling to 6,000 by the early 2000s and to just 2,000 as of last year. Those remaining have an average age approaching 70.

A chief reason for the decline of Lakota speakers is a now-halted federal education mandate that in the late 19th century and early 20th century forced Native American children into boarding schools, where they were required to speak English and were punished if they were caught speaking their native languages. That limited or erased the Lakota fluency of some Native Americans who later were unable or unwilling to teach it to their children.

David Posthumus, an assistant professor of Native American studies at the University of South Dakota, said efforts to preserve the language can be bolstered by providing people with real-world resources.

"If you are learning German, Spanish or whatever, you have all kinds of novels, books, movies, TV shows, media, news organizations that you can to and get that kind of practical experience outside the classroom, and you don't always get that with Lakota," Posthumus said. "The ultimate goal is to inspire and empower younger generations to speak, comprehend, read and write the Lakota language."

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