A non-profit organization receives a grant to teach Lakota in New York City, despite its permanent ban

To teach her 8- to 11-year-olds about their Lakota heritage, Brooklyn’s mom Cheyenne has to rely on homeschooling and sporadic community events.

She teaches them traditional dances to impress the captives, about land, and prayer, and helps them experience indigenous culture by attending events hosted by the American Indian Community House, a non-profit organization serving Native Americans in New York.

This includes events such as the Murdered and Missing Native Women’s Day Vigil, held in Washington Square Park on May 5.

“One of the people on that list, for those killed, is my children’s cousin,” Cheyenne, who asked that her last name not be published, told the city. “And then also, Aboriginal histories, like my children are descendants of the Sitting Bull.”

“There is a loss of our languages. More natives speak more English because of the boarding schools. Specifically for the Lakota, there are not enough speakers who are fluent,” she said.

To help bridge this language gap, the New York Community Trust, the state’s oldest public charity, awarded the nonprofit The Language Conservancy a $44,000 grant in late April to teach Lakota, through the Marcia Ashman Children’s Fund. (The New York Community Trust is the funder of THE CITY, which we disclose in accordance with our ethics policy, but donors have no influence on our editorial decisions.)

With the NYCT scholarship, six young Native Americans from the city will train at the Language Conservancy for two months at its Indiana offices. Funding also goes toward bringing Native American language instructors to New York City to teach local Lakota on weekends.

But who should teach the language and how is a hotly debated topic in the Standing Rock Indian Reservation that stretches across North and South Dakota, the headquarters of the country’s Lakota-speaking population.

On May 3, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council passed a resolution specifically prohibiting The Language Conservancy and The Lakota Language Consortium—two nonprofit partner organizations that strive to preserve indigenous languages—from working on the reservation, citing concerns about a lack of culture. Sensitivity in the teaching style in groups.

Mother tongue

The 2020 American Community Survey by the US Census Bureau indicates that approximately 15,680 people speak one of the “Dakota languages” at home, with the Lakota included in this category. With over 5,000 speakers, Lakota is in the top 5% of the remaining indigenous languages, according to The Language Conservancy.

Despite the condemnation from the Sioux tribe, NYCT said they are happy to work with the group.

“We believe that the Language Preservation Program for Teaching Native New Yorkers the Lakota Language was an opportunity to fulfill the original donor intent and to meet a need here in the city,” said Marty Lieb, director of communications for The New York Community Trust. City.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council did not respond to multiple requests for comment from THE CITY but previously stated that they object to the teaching style and the use of non-native speakers as teachers.

Wilhelm Mia, Executive Director of Language Preservation, who is also a board member of the Lakota Language Consortium, noted that previous language weekend events in New York had seen a high turnout, including 50 participants in the October event.

“I would say the language weekend events have been so successful and inspiring for people in New York that they requested more teaching events, and so we worked with a local teacher in Lakota to provide an ongoing classroom every weekend,” Mia told the city. Part of that original chapter continues[s] To meet every weekend for months to continue learning the Lakota language. ”

When Cheyenne heard about the scholarship during her research in a language class in Lakota, she immediately called The Language Conservancy to enroll her sons in the classes. But she was told they were too young to be on the weekend show. Although the scholarship is for young adults, the minimum age requirement for classes is 16 years old.

“This means there is a focused learning environment because this is a college-wide and paced curriculum,” said conservation spokeswoman Tara Tadlock.

“I’m angry,” Cheyenne said. Not everyone lives in Lakota [a] She has this opportunity.”

“I think there should be a grant for children who are not reserved to have this opportunity to do these lessons and have books and materials for learning, reading, writing and speaking,” she added.

Controversial ban

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council deals with who teaches the Lakota language and the methods used.

The language retention approach consists of a method that “has proven to be the most effective in teaching languages ​​because it mimics the natural language acquisition method of learning and allows students to retain more linguistic information than other methods,” Mia said.

These courses are taught by both native speakers and people who have previously completed the program and speak Lakota as a second language, according to the Conservancy. Not every legacy is original.

clan council Precision earlier this month against the TLC declaring its disapproval of “unethical efforts led by linguists to attack and intimidate our learners in SLO-only” [student learning objectives] curriculum and materials, with seniors continually misled into believing that the vastly overcompensated and attributable experiences of first language speakers will freely benefit our language learners. “

Essentially, the board believes that teachers and the teaching style of a language conservation organization do not have the cultural sensitivity necessary to pass on indigenous languages ​​effectively.

Instead, it accuses the nonprofit of selling these services “without any condition to protect or preserve sacred stories or knowledge as the inalienable and inalienable collective right of Okiti Sakowen to children and grandchildren.”

Oceti Sakowin, meaning “Seven Council Fires,” is also known as the Sioux Nation, a confederation of nations that speak Lakota, Dakota, and/or Nakota, according to the National Museum of the American Indian.

However, Phyllis Young, the Standing Rock for the Lakota People’s Bill, believes that preventing non-citizens from teaching would conflict with traditional tribal law, which advocates treating everyone alike.

She noted how in the 1980s when the Native American community experienced high suicide rates, non-Natives came to help. These strangers sleep in their cars but the elderly welcome them into their homes.

“They fed them and said, ‘You can stay in our house,'” Young told the city. “So we were shocked because [Council’s] The Education and Healthcare Commission, the three women there, voted in agreement[d] This decision. ”

Young, who has legal experience working on legislation such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, explained that the decision not only removes non-indigenous teachers, but harms indigenous teachers as well.

“When you take that action tomorrow, it will have no advantage because you didn’t address [Lakota Language Consortium] Board of Directors who are not those white teachers,” she told the Board before the vote. “You do not have the authority to come back to make a motion to override any of your boards that you have created here, or that have been created on their own. You shall exercise equal or due process of law.”

“I think it is unfortunate that one tribal member who instigated this decision was able to mischaracterize and misrepresent the work we do,” Mia told the city.

He did not comment on the details of this misidentification or name the tribal member, but instead referred again to the non-profit organization’s official statement in response to the decision.

New York wants us

Either way, he still wants to cater to learners in New York who want The Language Conservancy classes.

“By working with the Native American youth community in New York, specifically learners, they have expressed a great deal of interest in continuing to have such learning opportunities as language weekends, and so we are following up on that interest and those requests,” he said.

Jung also believes that as long as these classes are required, they must be provided.

“I think it’s incredible and I think America is ready for us and if New York wants us so be it. We are proof of the Western Hemisphere and wherever we are on Turtle Island [North America] She is a blessing,” she said. “I bring them, and if I have to come there myself to welcome them, I will.”

Former Mayor Bill de Blasio attends Thunderbird’s American Indian Bow at Queen’s Farm. July 24

Michael Appleton / Mayoral Photography Bureau

While the language institute will offer these weekend classes despite the controversy surrounding the scholarship money, Cheyenne still does not have a language teacher in Lakota for her children.

Unable to teach them herself, Cheyenne plans to take her fight for these kids’ classes to colleges and universities, starting with New York University. Its former Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies partnered with The Language Conservancy for its language weekend in February 2019.

“It was hard because nobody speaks it,” she said, “but you know, for the language to go on, I have to push for it and I’m going to whatever college I have to get it done.”

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