Education | National

Native Sun News: Language summit draws in tribes across US

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

Executive Director of the Tusweca Tiospaye, Mike Carlow, Jr. joins in the opening ceremonies of the 6th Annual Tusweca Tiospaye Language Summit. PHOTO BY/Karin Eagle

Language summit draws tribes from across Nation
By Karin Eagle
Native Sun News Staff Writer

RAPID CITY — In the foothills of the sacred Black Hills, the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota language was not only examined and researched in an academic manner, but it was celebrated by the participants of the 6th Annual Tusweca Tiyospaye Language Summit.

Held at the Ramkota Hotel, the language summit drew people from across Indian Country to look at the history, the practical application and the preservation efforts of the language that binds the tribes of the Oceti Sakowin together.

The keynote speaker for the opening ceremonies was recording artist Keith Secola, Anishinabe who spoke about the need to not only preserve the language but to flourish the language through education and application beginning in childhood.

Participants were treated to performances by Secola, including his well known hit, “Indian Cars”, and a Woody Guthrie song ‘This Land Is Your Land” sung in his own Ojibwa language. He is an Ojibwa with the Anishinabe tribe, born in Cook, Minnesota.

The theme for this year’s summit was “Uniting Our First Nations to Save Our Languages.” With participants from as far away as Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Canada and from across the lower 48 states, many tribes were represented and welcomed.

Some of the sessions that were available to the participants included a Lakota Bible Translation, language preservation and recovery, as well as the ins and outs of teaching the Lakota language. Many of the sessions were geared directly to the educators of tribal languages, but were open to all participants.

One of the highest attended sessions featured Oglala Headsman, Wilmer Mesteth, who introduced the standing room only audience to some of the oldest historical songs. Mesteth sang the original Chief Red Cloud song, as well as songs created for and during the Battle of The Little Big Horn. The song for Crazy Horse was sung by Mesteth and his nephew Jeremiah Moreno, while many in the audience sang along softly.

The session ended with Mesteth singing a song that honored the “matriarch” of the tribe. These are the older women, the grandmothers, who have sent their men into battle and welcomed them home. The song was sung for the women who have reached this station in life.

Several younger women danced the traditional dance held only for those women who have earned the right to dance it. The younger women danced on behalf of their eldest grandmothers, or Unci, who could not participate any longer.

Friday evening of the summit featured the Oceti Sakowin Wacipi, the annual powwow held in conjunction with the language summit. With ten local and visiting drum groups and a few dozen dancers of all ages, the wacipi continued the theme of drawing tribes together.

Tusweca Tiospaye is a Native 501(c) (3) non-profit organization located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, home of the Oglala Lakota that is dedicated to the promotion and strengthening of the Lakota language

Started in 2008 by Executive Director Michael Carlow, Jr., Tusweca Tiospaye created the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota Language Summit as a way to unite the ‘Sioux’ tribes in the United States and Canada in our efforts to revitalize our language and create new generations of speakers.

More information about Tusweca Tiospaye as well as the language summit, visit

(Contact Karin Eagle at

Copyright permission by Native Sun News

Join the Conversation