Day 1: Camp Partcipants Practice lakota Language During Traditional Activities

posted July 21, 2014

On the first day of the Maȟpíya Lúta Owáyawa Lakȟól’iya Wičhóthi (Red Cloud Indian School Lakota Language Camp), students formed their own thiyóšpaye, or family group. Each group moved amongst three different stations where they engaged with the language during different traditional activities.

Waŋblí Thiyóšpaye (eagle group) spent their morning learning how to erect a tipi. Teachers explained why the tipi was important for their ancestors and how each piece of the tipi mirrors a significant part of a person: the tripod structure of the poles a person’s naǧí (spirit), tȟaŋčháŋ (body) and čhaŋtéyuza (emotions); the top of the tipi where the poles join represents the nasúla (brain); and the rope used to tie it all together a person’s kȟáŋ (artery), supports the whole tipi, holding it together and bringing life to the structure.

Meanwhile, Matȟó Thiyóšpaye (bear group) gathered around Philomine Lakota, a Red Cloud High School Lakota language teacher, as they joined her in cutting raw tȟatȟáŋka (buffalo) for drying on wooden poles into pápa while she explained how to properly prepare it in Lakota. Repeating Philomine each time she said a new word, students quickly began using the words on their own. “Otkéwaye,” Dylan ‘16 said to Philomine as he walked back to the table: “I hung the meat”.

What has been your favorite part of the camp so far?
I’ve really enjoyed beading. I’ve always enjoyed it, but here I’ve been learning about the importance of it and how every design has its own story. After the camp, I’ll have a medicine pouch that I made and beaded from scratch, which is amazing. It doesn’t just have to be a hobby, I can actually explain to people why beading is culturally important. -Davian Stands 15, 11th grade.

Heȟáka thiyóšpaye (elk group) sat under a large canopy across from the tipis. Here, the girls and boys learned about the different parts of a čhuwíč’iŋpa (cradleboard), a traditional item used to swaddle newborns that is still used today. While the girls made their moss bags that accompany the čhuwíč’iŋpa, boys received simple pieces of rawhide and sinew, which they learned to fashion into knife holders.

“We live in a different time and circumstances have changed drastically, so our teachings must adjust to that,” said Philomine, referring to the traditional division of skills between genders. “It was decided that both boys and girls would learn and participate in the same activities. It’s crucial for our youth to learn and participate in as many traditional activities as they can.”

The students and parent participants ended their busy day by participating in a traditional ceremony called Inípi, commonly referred to as a ‘sweat lodge ceremony.’ All who were able to attend gathered within the lodge to pray together, singing songs in the Lakota language—a culturally-significant way to bring the a successful day to a close.

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Photos and Content ©Red Cloud Indian School, 2014