The Dakota Language Revitalization CHAT continues to full fill its commitment to the well being of the Dakota peoples through spiritual, cultural, language and educational ways of life that are inherit to the Dakota nation.
At the beginning of the 20th century, there were more than seven thousand speakers of the Dakota language located in over 24 different reservations, reserves, homestead settlements in Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada. All of these speakers who called their homeland Mnisota ”shining lakes” and what is now called by settler society as the state of Minnesota, were all descendants of the original Dakota’s who inhabited this area since time immemorial. The tragic consequences of the Dakota wars of 1862 lead to the Diaspora of the Dakota nation from their original homeland.
Subsequent to the events of 1862 and the creation of the reservation system; the governments of Canada and the United States in-acted policies and laws to, at times, forcibly remove Dakota children from their homes to federal and church run schools called: residential schools (Canada) or boarding schools (U.S.), were the use of the Dakota language was forbidden by strict punishment and even death. By the 1950’s three generations of Dakota peoples had grown up the boarding and residential school system. Due to the systematic oppression inflicted on the Dakota, many were reluctant to teach their children the Dakota language (in which lies the spiritual foundation of the Dakota ways of life) in fear of reprisal from the Government(s). As a result the Dakota language is on the verge of extinction in their-own homeland. The tragic history and historical trauma of these events has lead to a diaspora of health issues that include diabetes, obesity, early death, alcoholism, drug use, heart disease and broken families.
As one of Minnesota’s indigenous languages, Dakota is an important asset to Minnesota and the world’s linguistic resources. The complexity and unique aspects of the Dakota language provides important worldviews and concepts that can enrich all Minnesotans. With this noted, there is even more pressing need to revitalize the Dakota language. Specifically for the purposes of this project, revitalizing the Dakota language is of the utmost importance to turning around the currently bleak outlook for the achievement of young Native American living in Minneapolis. Reclaiming the Dakota language is a cornerstone for Native American Dakota’s to reconnect to culture, educational achievement and positive self image, which in and of itself, is an important indicator of academic, economic, and lifetime success for self, family and community.
The Dakota Language CHAT is involved in various activities that will help to revitalize the language and culture of the Dakota people. One of our most recent activities was the showing of the documentary “Dakota 38” produced by Spirit Feather Productions. The film grew out of a dream in 2005 of Jim Miller, a spiritual leader and Vietnam Veteran from South Dakota. Jim’s dream is rooted in his people’s nightmare of the largest mass execution ever conducted by the United States government. Jim and his wife traveled from South Dakota to be present for the film’s viewing at the American Indian Center. Local spiritual leader, Jim Claremont opened the evening with a prayer and a traditional song.
CHAT Members include: Ashley Agard, Wayne Long Crow, Sheldon Noel