Lakota: The Revitalization of Language and the Persistence of Spirit
By Jason Coppola, Truthout | News Analysis – New programs to teach and restore the lost language and cultural heritage of the Lakota Sioux offers hope for the children who live on reservations where dire poverty, suicide, unemployment and substance abuse have become a way of life.
For more than a century the Lakota language endured a deliberate and systematic attempt to eradicate it.
As a tool of colonization, the killing of language was a means of severing indigenous people’s ties to their culture, history and spirituality.
General Richard Henry Pratt in 1878 formed the first of many Indian boarding schools designed to “elevate” the Lakota to white culture. According to the Amnesty International article titled “Soul Wound: The Legacy of Native American Schools,” more than 100,000 Native Americans were “forced by the US government to attend Christian schools.”
The system, which began with President Ulysses Grant’s 1869 “peace policy,” continued well into the 20th century. Church officials, missionaries and local authorities took children as young as age 5 from their parents and shipped them off to Christian boarding schools. They were separated from their families most of the year, sometimes without a single family visit. Parents caught trying to hide their children lost food rations.
At the schools, native children were forced to worship as Christians. Their hair was cut, traditional clothing was banned and, according to “Soul Wound,” the elimination of native languages – considered an obstacle to the “acculturation” process – was a top priority. Teachers devised an extensive repertoire of punishments for uncooperative children, which included mouths being “scrubbed with lye and chlorine.” Read more…
Images left to right
Name:Gall or Pizi
Name:Eddie Plenty Holes
Name:Alfred C. Smith or Cagaca
Name:Steep Wind or Táh-téck-a-da-háir
Name:Sitting Bull or Tatanka Yotanka
Name:Old Betts, Sioux woman
Name:Unknown, Sioux woman
Name:David Zephier or Two Kettle Dakota Man
Name:Kicking Bear or Mato-Wa-Nahtaka