Day 2: Revitalizing the Lakota Language Through Traditional Stories & Practices

posted July 22, 2014

After breakfast on the second day of the Maȟpíya Lúta Owáyawa Lakȟól’iya Wičhóthi (Red Cloud Indian School Lakota Language Camp), boys and girls split up to study for a friendly language competition.

While the boys tended to the fire they had built and reviewed vocabulary, the girls sat in a circle practicing their terms in between listening to elders tell traditional stories of the trickster spirit, Iktómi the spider—who teaches lessons through its own mistakes—that they can pass on to their siblings and one day, their own children.

The three thiyóšpaye, or family groups, gathered before lunch to play a few games of “Iktómi Heyé”, a Lakota version of Simon Says. Students listened carefully to Lakota commands and would attempt to correctly respond. The award for the winner: a spot at the front of the lunch line that day.

That afternoon, the groups went in search of čheyáka (mint) and pȟežíȟota (sage) in the adjacent field across the creek. Traditional medicines such as these are still widely used by the Lakota people and are central to many ceremonies.

As the sun cast its amber light on the meadow and slowly sunk below the hill, everyone, including families and some local community members, gathered together to listen to stories of the stars.

“Storytelling is traditionally meant for cold winter nights, but the opportunity to hear many of them at one time is rare.” says Philomine Lakota, a Red Cloud High School Lakota language teacher. “This knowledge is valuable for the youth, so we decided that they should hear the stories that night. These stories have been passed down for centuries by their ancestors. Hearing them around the campfire is both entertaining as well as educational, just as it was for our grandparents’ grandparents when they were young.”


Return to the Main Story and Continue Reading!


Photos and Content ©Red Cloud Indian School, 2014