Editorial: Lakota family donates vital recordings

"In a tradition with no writing, songs and stories are the preservers and transmitters of culture.

The spoken word remains sacred in a way that has been lost to English since the time of "Beowulf."

So the gift this week of Lakota language recordings by the family of Jim Emery to Oglala Lakota College in Kyle resonates with history and tradition on a level comparable to great works in our literary canon.

Emery, who grew up on the Rosebud Indian Reservation, noticed as early as 1927 that Lakota was falling into disuse. He consciously set out to preserve the language, taping all kinds of songs and oratory.

He was in a unique position to capture history. His mother, Walks Alone, was at both Little Big Horn and Wounded Knee. Among his recordings are conversations with Dewey Bear, the last survivor of both the battle and the massacre.

But Emery's devotion to his mother's tongue (his father was white) extended beyond mere preservation of what could have become a dead language. He taught Lakota to new generations of students, both at Sinte Gleska college and the University of South Dakota.

In fact, that was where he died, teaching in a classroom at USD in 1977."

Get the Story:
Editorial: Tape donation 'gift of culture' (The Sioux Falls Argus Leader 9/6)

$rl Oglala Lakota College - http://www.olc.edu