Lakota Journal


Cal Thunder Hawk


Sinte Gleska University to reject Lakota Language Consortium membership

Story and photos by Cal Thunder Hawk Lakota Journal Staff Writer

(Scanned article here.)


ROSEBUD—“The Lakota Language Consortium has created the misleading impression that Sinte Gleska University is one of the schools that supports their organization,” said Randy Emery.

Emery teaches in the Cultural Resources Management Program of Lakota Studies at SGU on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation.

The Lakota Language Consortium, based at Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, is sponsoring an Inaugural Meeting & Workshop, October 10-12 in Rapid City. It will be conducted in conjunction with the Oglala Nation Education Consortium and the Black Hills Pow Wow.

Emery said, based on their review of “Lakota Language Revitalization: General Overview,” a document published by the LLC and widely circulated in Lakota country by LLC this spring, Lakota Studies will not recommend SGU participation in the consortium.

“The (LLC) documentation strongly implies that there are no fluent speakers younger than the elder age group and the presentation implies that the Lakota cannot deal with the problem themselves; therefore outside help must be brought in to lead the program. This appears to us as a sugar coated attack on sovereignty,” he said.

He continued, “The presentation suggests that a goal for the program is standardization of the language. We feel that this approach will cause problems because the language is utilized diversely. If standardization is determined to be the approach of the organization, then the question is whose version will be adopted? This will cause dissent and politics to become a factor in the process.”

The review cited concerns about, “Control and ownership of information, curriculum and certainly the dictionary as a product of this consortium.”

And it declared that Lakota Studies did not support the alleged unethical scholastic and professional practices by one of the main organizers of the LLC. The document concluded with an assertion of self-determination and sovereignty.

Emery said that the LLC had gotten funding based upon the misleading inclusion of SGU among a list of more than 30 schools and school districts in a “Memorandum of Consortium” in the LLC document.

Douglas, R. Parks, professor of anthropology and associate director of American Indian Studies and Research Institute, UI, is one of several organizers of the LLC.

He stated that LLC had gotten no funding on the behalf of SGU and that the inclusion of SGU in the list of schools in the “Memorandum of Consortium” was for the proposed consortium only and did not imply SGU endorsement or support of it.

Parks said, “We want them in the consortium. That’s the thing. Rosebud has such a large population that I think it’s very crucial that they join this effort because the goal is to get all of the reservations together into a united effort.”

About LLC’s statistical analysis – the first item in the unfavorable review – Parks said, “It was based on a survey of speakers conducted by Oglala community College at Pine Ridge about eight or ten years ago. The majority of the speakers are that older generation. And, if you look at it statistically in another 10 years the average age of speakers will be 70. Every decade the age of speakers gets older and eventually the language is not going to be a living language.”

Also, according to the SGU document, standardization of Lakota language teaching materials would create chaos in Lakota classrooms.

On the issue of standardization proposed by LLC, Parks said, “One of the obvious advantages of a standardized writing system is that a Lakota speaker can move around within a region and still use the same writing system. The current situation is that for every community that has a program there’s a different writing system.”

He said, “We really haven’t started putting together any teaching materials yet. We’ll wait until we get an agreement on a single orthography. That’s one of the first issues that we’re going to have to address.”

He continued, “Each language has an inventory of significant sounds. Those sounds differentiate meaning between words. On the whole, the Buechel system, the old Rigg’s writing system and most of the systems that the schools themselves have devised don’t make all of those distinctions. Taylor and Rood does because it’s linguistically based. A writing system needs to make all of the distinctions that are necessary to learn how to correctly pronounce the words.”

He said, “The first thing we’re actually going to work on is a dialect dictionary. It will take account of the variations among the different communities on the different reservations. The dictionary can be used in all of the communities. The same will be true of the teaching materials. They will be adapted for the speech of each community. This is something that we’ve planned for from the very beginning and not something that we have any intention of ignoring.”

“The consortium will produce teaching materials and they’ll be in a variety of formats. There will be multimedia lessons on CD. There will be printed textbooks, dictionaries and that kind of thing. All of that will be paid for from consortium fees. Each school gets those materials free so that there’s not an additional charge for consortium schools. If people outside the consortium want to buy those materials, they will be made available or sold ant the profit goes to the consortium. Not to Indiana University but to the consortium,” he said.

About the future of the LCC he said, “Eventually, in about 16 years, it’s going to move from Indiana University – where most of the work will be done initially – to somewhere out there in South Dakota. And it will be taken over by local educators.”

However, if Lakota Studies has its way – based on their review of LCC -- SGU will reject membership in it. Initially, SGU applied for a grant to accomplish the same language objectives but their grant request was rejected.

Some educators at SGU still believe their name was used to leave the impression that they supported the grand request by Indiana University. They believe they lost their bid for a grant based upon this false impression.

© 2008 Cal Thunder Hawk