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World Language Standards Don’t Require Lakota, Don’t Mention Grammar

The South Dakota Board of Education adopted new standards for world language yesterday. In a sign of their significance, this standards review process drew one public comment:

I would like to see cross-disciplinary standards with the Lakota language and more emphasis on our Lakota/Dakota language. The Dakota’s are our homes and these languages have been spoken here for generations. We have ELA and Technology standards across the disciplines, I would suggest we also add Lakota/Dakota standards. I am concerned that there is very little if any mention of Lakota/Dakota or Indigenous languages. We are speaking about being global citizens but haven’t even concentrated on being local citizens yet to the people who live here homelands. The State can be extremely beneficial to language revitalization efforts and help save near extinct languages. It would benefit all students-Native and non and help build bridges between our cultures and assist in diffusing cultural conflicts [Ray Taken Alive, computer/technology teacher, McLaughlin School, comment submitted to world language standards workgroup, South Dakota Department of Education, 2018.09.11].

The standards workgroup responded that the state just can’t require any local district to teach any specific world language, even one spoken by natives of this state:

The World Language standards are not specific to any one language; however, the work group did incorporate language and examples that would be representative of all South Dakota students, including Lakota/Dakota, and American Sign Language.

Because South Dakota is a local control state, each district determines the world language offering for students; therefore, neither the work group nor the state control those decisions. Based on the workgroup’s review of the public comment, it was determined that no changes would be made to the proposed standards document.

Also important to note would be the Department of Education’s partnership with Tribal Leaders and South Dakota Educators to create the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings. The Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and their related resource documents include standards, activities, teaching resources, and sample cross-disciplinary lesson plans to provide support for understanding and teaching Oceti Sakowin culture, oral traditions, and history in South Dakota schools. These Essential Understandings may provide a resource to support what is requested in the comment in Exhibit #1 [emphasis in original; world language standards workgroup response to public comment, 2019.03.18].

Perhaps Mr. Taken Alive should have emphasized the civics angle of his call for more Lakota language learning in our schools. Training South Dakotans to speak with each other in a Native language would do more to enhance civic dialogue and participation than the trivial quizzes and “Good Job!” stickers on Governor Noem’s failed civics education agenda.

The world language standards revolve around the 5 Cs: Communications, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities.

World language standards, SD DoE, 2019.03.18.
World language standards, SD DoE, 2019.03.18.

The adopted standards do not mention the word grammar. They do mention teaching students to “Communicate and interact in the language with respect and cultural competence in both local and global communities” and “Set lifelong learning goals and reflect on progress in using the language for enjoyment, enrichment, enhancement, and advocacy.”


  1. leslie 2019-03-19 08:13

    My second grade grand daughter would love to be taught to speak Lakota in RC public schools.

  2. Donald Pay 2019-03-19 09:29

    leslie, I looked into this in 2000, and found that RC schools didn’t have certified teachers who could teach Lakota/Dakota, and that there were few such teachers in existence anywhere to recruit. A few were at schools on the reservations, and Rapid City would have to pull those teachers away. That didn’t seem right to me, so I never pushed it. There may be more teachers by now, so it might be worth the district checking into it.

    There might be a way of having native Lakota speakers from the community and/or from OLC help develop a program for Rapid City.

  3. leslie 2019-03-19 11:04

    Watching young Lakota speakers teach non-Indian classmates is truly exciting. You want something done? A motivated 7 year old is your ticket!

    We’ve got more Indian legislators now that might spur the school districts in McLaughlin as well as RC and other key locations, initially.

    I am not sure where this idea came from recently. As we see in millennials, tolerance and liberal thought is increasing! Children are the future.

  4. Kal Lis 2019-03-19 21:30

    I hope Speaker Haugaard doesn’t read the standards, especially the fourth one.

    He’ll be writing a metric crapton of bills of bills to make sure no one ever reads anything in a second language, let alone Lakota. After all, one doesn’t want to “to dilute our population with a second culture and encourage that second culture, it doesn’t advance our state at all.” (I suppose the metric crapton measurement dilutes Imperial measurements as well.)

  5. Debbo 2019-03-19 21:55

    I’m writing a language named Earthan. It’s our planet’s language for the 23rd century. There will still be various cultural languages, but this one will be the planetary standard. There are 23 letters or sounds. Every symbol has only one sound. Example: G is always soft. There is a letter for the TH sound, in addition to SH. I haven’t sorted out the various OUGH sounds yet. That will add a few letters. Vowel sounds are indicated by dots.

    I’ve borrowed symbol shapes from Aramaic, Phoenician, Runic, and other dead languages so that no current language is favored.

    There is no I. E and Y can take care of that sound. No V. Several languages have survived just fine without that sound, so I decided to skip it. Z can go too. S is enough.

    It’s just a fun mental exercise to do. There are many things to think about. Some commonly used words are one symbol, like NO, YES, YOU, ME, etc. Some of the symbols are fairly complex, but my working theory is that no one will be writing by hand, so it doesn’t matter.

    It’s fun. None of my symbols appear on a keyboard so I can’t show you. I share photos with friends. Keeps me out of trouble.

    Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-03-20 07:01

    Debbo, I hope your effort to bring people together through a common language is wyctoryus. ;-)

  7. Debbo 2019-03-20 13:29

    Thanks Kory. (C is always the CH sound.) Unles (no double letters) ther r fantastik advansments in anty-ajeng syns, I won’t b arond to (gotta figure out what to do about all the 2s) fynd out!

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