Lately I've been asked... what's in store for the future? What might we do to remedy the situation? And what are the alternatives and options? Of course, I'm referring to my fluent language (Lakota). To be honest, I don't know what's going to happen in the near future really. But still, we must continue our efforts to re-teach the language in schools and colleges as they're doing right now. Continually keep the young Lakota people inspired to learn it, speak it, and maybe one day understand it. I know that a friend of mine is trying his very best right now learning ways to structure sentences in Lakota. My friend even greets me with occasional "hello's," and "how are you doing?" in the Lakota language. To me, that is incredibly comforting hearing the language from a young individual like himself. Not that I'm implying old people are getting "old" to hear, but it is simply refreshing, so to speak. Of course, I reply back with a word and test him to see what he has learned. It's funny, sometimes when he doesn't know, he goes on replying, "Taku? Washicuya yo!" -> (What? English please!)
Still, thinking about it abroad makes me wonder aimlessly i.e. no real grounded idea really comes to my mind. All I've ever been thinking about are immersion camps, a separate school built on by a rewarded grant, but where can I get the help? This Lakota elder and I keep debating whether to build an immersion school, or an immersion camp. But first we've spoken on getting current fluent speakers together to start this process. The idea is still ongoing.
Now, in case you may have been wondering, how did the language situation come about in the first place?
To me, it was the impoverished conditions on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservation. My fellow Lakota people tend to neglect tradition and rely mostly on jobs keeping the household intact. Their were some Catholic religion influence in their as well, with missionaries presenting the religion to the Lakota people, somewhat a safe haven for the depressed communities. I guess the word of God was more comforting than Wakan takan's spiritual guidance. I've grown up in a catholic family, going to Sunday services, so it was sort of unfortunate for my family to have learned a whole new way of life and having to learn the Lakota ways again after realizing the imported religion wasn't for them. But no harm, no foul.
As for the alcohol problem - this problem is actually universal amongst tribes in the country unfortunately. It's just a lot worser here in the Pine Ridge reservation. Do I need to really mention it? Ugh, yes ...White Clay, Nebraska...
Through this, domestic violence occurs, suicides, and with people drowning themselves in alcohol to forget the impoverished lifestyle they live in because of how easy it is to get alcohol. Harsh, yes. In fact, VERY harsh to even be speaking about it, but the word must go out there. Like to know more? Visit the Facebook group
to learn more about the White Clay initiative.
This may have been another cause for young individuals to overlook traditional ways and instead look upon the sport of Basketball to learn their true character. Basketball is raved about in our reservations, with aspirations to win state title. My friend, and also the founder of Indian Country Today (Tim Giago), also realized what the problem may be. Basketball. He wrote an article about it -> here
. In it, he also speaks about "traditional districts" as well, meaning communities that are isolated from mainstream influence (it's all in the article). As for basketball, we hold a huge event for the sport every winter called the Lakota Nation Invitational (LNI). It grew into a more broad event later on - with other sports included, and even educational events, but still the main event is Basketball.
I hate to open my big mouth, but what the hell?
After all the shenanigans happen about whenever the huge pride deteriorates, those athletic individuals usually end up having no jobs after high school, nor do they end up going college. Why? Because that's all they've done, play basketball. It's REALLY harsh to say these things yes, but they're true nonetheless based on first hand experience. The question is when are they ever going to learn? Reason I'm emphasizing this problem is I've seen my friends end up in the gutter... and they were better leaders than me truthfully. Almost every week I try and inspire them to educate themselves, and I try and have them learn the importance of keeping tradition. Fortunately enough, many of the athletes I knew are doing their part, participating in ceremonies and singing at pow wow's. Now if only we get rid of White Clay, I say the future would look A LOT brighter than it is today for the Lakota people on the Pine Ridge reservation. Their are young native individuals who do go college of course, and I don't mean to neglect any of them.
Yes, as for me, I feel very fortunate (and lucky) to have been taught the language and be able to speak and understand it. Not very many young individuals have the native tongue, and some days I find that rather sad. But as always, I use my sadness as a way of inspiring my ideas to re-teach it; to either children, teenagers, even adults. I wouldn't mind teaching children first though. To me, they're still learning the English language as it is, why not teach them another language while they're at it? :)
Overall, this situation is a huge challenge, but I don't care. I want to see my Lakota people speak it like they use to during the traditional days. Sure, I get the argument that "its written down." Yeah? What're you implying? That non-fluent speakers are able to re-teach it? Their are some ancient words only fluent speakers know. Without them, the language is going to sound off key.
So to conclude this rather harsh and ranted blog (LOL), every delicate situation like this is never pretty. You just simply have to pull your trousers up, look fate in the eye, and remain diligent and strong.
Oh... and thanks for reading. ^_^