Jun 28, 2004

Lakota: School hopes to keep Lakota language alive

The Wakpala School is putting the finishing touches on implementing a $400,000 government grant, it hopes this will help save a language from extinction
By Mike Corpos

The Wakpala School is putting the finishing touches on implementing a $400,000 government grant it hopes will help save a language from extinction.

The grant, to promote bi-lingual learning, was used to create classroom tools, mostly computer-based, to help students and teachers keep alive the Lakota language.

They will begin using the tools when classes start in August.

Project Director Earl Bullhead said the school, located on the Standing Rock Indian reservation, was able to develop a series of computer graphics and interactive programs to assist in the learning and preservation of the Lakota language and culture.

"We will have CD-ROMs available and students can work with them on the computer screen," Bullhead said. "You click on a graphic and it tells you the Lakota word with the pronunciation."

Bullhead said students will be quizzed on what they learn.

Teachers will also have access to the programs so they can learn the language along with students. Written materials on Lakota are also part of the programs.

Bullhead said the grant money has nearly all been spent on purchasing and implementing the technology needed to develop the programs.

He said more money is needed to further improve the school's Lakota curriculum.

"So much more needs to be done," he said. Bullhead said the school used local people to help implement the programs instead of contracting services from outside sources.

The school plans a public unveiling of the new technology and materials at 2 p.m. Tuesday. That will include speakers and entertainment, Bullhead said.

"It won't be the final product we'll show there, but it's close," Bullhead said. "We have some small details to take care of - corrections and such. It's tedious, but it's worth it."

Bullhead said the most important thing in the whole program is that students are able to retain their identity through learning Lakota.

"The grant was a very valuable experience - it helps promote awareness of culture and language."

Source: Aberdeen News