Students from the Wakanyeja Tiokihe Oti patiently wait for lunch to be served at the open house last week. Photo by Vi Waln
Wakanyeja Tiokihe Oti: Working to Keep the Lakota Language Alive
By Vi Waln
LCT correspondent ST. FRANCIS, SD – The students attending Wakanyeja Tiokihe Oti start each day with circle time around a medicine wheel displaying elaborate paintings, their prayers are offered in the Lakota language and are accompanied by the smoke from burning sage. “Students who are exposed to the Lakota language being spoken for twenty minutes a day for at least three years will have a much better chance of becoming a fluent speaker,” stated Carmen Eagle Pipe, certified teacher who oversees the classroom. About half of the current students come from a home where there is a fluent Lakota speaker. Eagle Pipe is assisted by Guadalupe Standing Cloud. Both women are fluent Lakota speakers. This academic program provides preschool and elementary aged students an opportunity to learn the Lakota language at this immersion project operated by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. The program celebrated their first anniversary with an open house in June. Parents, grandparents and community members were welcomed with a tour of the building. Everyone who visited the classrooms were served a lunch of buffalo soup, fry bread and coffee.
Jamie Long Crow painted an elaborate Medicine Wheel which is used during circle time each morning. It is painted on canvas and features animals associated with each of the four directions. Photo by Vi Waln
“We are very happy with the success of this project over the past year,” stated Cindy Young, Director of the Tribal Education Department. “The tribe will continue to fund this program as it is very important to us.” The project is located at 69 Willow Street (west of BIA highway 1) in St. Francis, SD. The program operates year round. Students have a two week break at the end of May and another two week break at the end of August. Students attend classes on Monday through Thursday mornings. Transportation and meals are provided. Students are recruited from the Owl Bonnet Head Start Classroom in St. Francis, which is a total Lakota language immersion classroom under the direction of Ken Stands Fast. There are currently seventeen students enrolled in the project. There is also a waiting list. Parents or guardians must complete an application in order to be put on the waiting list. The child’s birth certificate and immunization records are required for enrollment.
Teacher Carmen Eagle Pipe displays the Medicine Wheel used in the daily circle time by students. Photo by Vi Waln
Students can be 3, 4 or 5 years old and priority is given to those in Head Start. Students should be ready for learning in Lakota language immersion environment. A family member or extended family member must be supportive. Parents must also be ready to learn the language and willing to volunteer in the classroom. In addition to their regular classroom activities, students also take short field trips. Their most recent trip was to the White River Health Care Center. They visited with residents there to commemorate Father’s Day. They are planning a visit to the Buechel Memorial Museum later this summer. For more information or if you have any questions please contact Carmen Eagle Pipe at (605) 747-2160. Find the award-winning Lakota Country Times on the Internet, Facebook and Twitter.
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