Lakota Language Returns to Standing Rock Reservation

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If you want to learn French in the native country, you go to France. If you want to learn German, you go to Germany.

But, if you want to learn Lakota, there wasn't a place you could go for almost a century, but one tribe is trying to change that.

The language of the land is returning.

Lakota is being taught and immersed in schools throughout the Standing Rock Reservation.

Courtney Yellow Fat, Lakota Language Teacher, Standing Rock Middle School: "You can hardly find anybody that grows up speaking the language with parent and grandparents so now we're trying to bring that back with teaching academically."

He says the U.S. Government stripped their way of life in the late 1800's including prohibiting them to speak their language. But, this revitalization effort creates a bridge that connects today's generation with their history.

"Then they feel more comfortable talking to grandma and grandpa who still speak and then there's a real conversation that goes on right there," said Yellow Fat.

And students agree.
Winona Gayton, 8th Grade: "It's kinda up to us to save the language."
Tokata Iron Eyes, 7th Grade: "All of our ancestors fought for us and they died for us to be able to know our culture and our religion and to be able to speak our language."
Gabriel Red Tomahawk, 8th Grade: "Best we can do is try to learn it and keep it going for them."
The Lakota Language resurgence is so successful here, it's now helping the Crow tribe in Montana form a curriculum to keep its language alive as well.
Courtney Yellow Fat, Lakota Language Teacher, Standing Rock Middle School: "Which was funny to me because the Crow and the Lakota were one time fierce enemies. But now we have a common enemy: the loss of our language."
He says the initiative is one step in reclaiming Lakota and Dakota culture.
Courtney Yellow Fat, Lakota Language Teacher, Standing Rock Middle School: "It brings the past to the present so we can move on to the future."
A future that's looking bright for generations to come.
Here's an idea of just how well these kids are picking up the language.
Standing Rock Middle Schoolers are currently back to back champions at the Lakota Nation Invitationals.
They even challenged the winners of the high school division and beat them as well.