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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


December 27, 2003 - Issue 103


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Lakota Language Bowl talk of the tournament

by Jomay Steen, Rapid City Journal Staff Writer
credits: photo of actual hand game pieces

photo of actual hand game piecesRAPID CITY - Fast hands and a solid background in Lakota were all it took to power Cheyenne Eagle Butte into the second round of the Lakota Language Bowl on Thursday.

The Language Bowl is among activities that are part of the Lakota Nation Invitational basketball tournament taking place this week at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

The Hand Game Tournament starts at 10 a.m. today in Rushmore Hall, and finals for the championship round will be in the arena. Knowledge Bowl contestants meet from 9 a.m. to noon in the Blue, Gold and Red rooms for the preliminaries. Quiz Bowl finals are from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The final round of Lakota Language Bowl begins at 10 a.m. in the Alpine Room, and a student dance begins at 9 p.m. in Rushmore Hall South.

During Thursday's Language Bowl, Ashley Chasing Hawk's quick flick of the buzzer rang her team to an 18-0 finish.

With Tammy Granudos, Lisa Aungie, Duane Curley and Kyle Brown backing up the Cheyenne Eagle Butte junior, Chasing Hawk reeled off a tongue-tripping set of words in a room filled with competitors from most of South Dakota's American Indian reservations.

"Our strategy is ‘Try to hit the buzzer fast,'" Granudos said. Chasing Hawk gladly obliged, and the team advanced to its next round of sentences and phrases.

"I tend to get overly excited when I'm competing," Chasing Hawk said.

Lakota-language coach Iris Dupris was confident about how well her team would perform. "I think everyone knows we're the competition," she said.

The five contestants, seated at tables, faced a panel of judges. An announcer said the category and the word that would be translated into Lakota. Team members would push buzzers to get the first chance to say the word. If the word was mispronounced or incorrect, the competitors had 10 seconds to answer. Correct answers scored a point, and the game went on to the next word.

Categories included four directions, Lakota values, stages of life — the seven sacred rites, ceremonial vocabulary, domestic animals and insects.

Duane Curley, 17, although proficient, is not fluent in Lakota. The LNI Language Bowl and others like it help keep it in their school's curriculum and in the mainstream.

"This is what these contests are for, to keep the language alive," Curley said.

His family — aunts, uncles and older generations — are fluent speakers, and it's something that the Cheyenne Eagle Butte senior strives for. "I practice on it, and it's something I hope to be. It would be cool to learn to speak the original language," he said.

Cool under pressure, Kyle Brown, 15, loves the competition of the bowl and the edginess of the time limits.

"Just competing, it's interesting," he said.

Even if other team members buzz in to translate a word, they often huddle for a quick conference. "We want to make sure the words agree," Brown said.

The Eagle Butte freshman can be found in the crowd while other teams compete, too. Sometimes in the back and sometimes in the front row, he's soaking up the sounds, words and phrases. "You can silently answer the questions, and you can learn a lot by watching the others."

Brown and Curley have never been discouraged from learning their ancestral language.

In Granudos' household, however, her grandfather encouraged only English.

"My grandpa believed if we talked Indian, we'd be hurt or hit," she said.

Once forbidden by schools, now the formerly underground language is taught in daily classes, plays a part in popular movies and is the basis of a tournament. On Thursday, Granudos advanced in that tournament using a language her grandfather wasn't allowed to speak.

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