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Lakota Language Nest

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At first glance, the Lakota Language Nest looks like any other preschool, but no other school sounds like this.

"We're the only Lakota language nest in the state of North Dakota, in Lakota country. So, it's one of a kind. It's an opportunity that doesn't exist anywhere else currently," says teacher Tipiziwin Young.

Everyone who comes into the classroom has to speak Lakota. Grown ups can use cheat sheets.

The three and four-year-olds have been absorbing the language since September and often interchange Lakota and English.

"We don't like to correct them. We're just always encouraging them and go over the top with encouragement when they do or say something in Lakota. So, we just do that constant positive reinforcement," says Young.

There was a time when Lakota children were shamed and often punished for speaking their native tongue at school.

"There was federal government policy prohibiting it, so it was kind of a traumatizing era when it was just totally forbidden. And I say it's not historical trauma, because the people it happened to are still living, and they're living with the experiences they carry with them everyday," says Young.

Tom Red Bird is one of those people.

"Lakota is my first language. When I first started school, I didn't know any English, and there was no head start, there was no kindergarten, so I just went into first grade and had a hard time for a couple years," says Red Bird.

The children call him Grandpa, and they call their other teacher Auntie.

"I do all the Lakota talking, and Tipi does the teaching of it. So, that's how they learn, and we make a great team," says Red Bird.

These children are too young to know the significance of the school or how they'll change the future. They just know school is a fun, safe place where they get to see their grandpa and auntie every day.

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