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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America



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Campers Challenged to Use Only Lakota Language for a Week


by Jomay Steen, Rapid City Journal Staff Writer

Lakota girlEAGLE BUTTE -- No cell signals, no radio waves, no cable, no English.

It's all part of a plan to keep technology and the 21st century at bay while immersing students into the American Indian language and culture of the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.

As a way to strengthen an endangered language, Si Tanka University will challenge 100 student campers to a week of accelerated learning where only the Lakota language is spoken.

Setting up campsites along the sandy banks of the Cheyenne River on the southern border of the reservation, students will have had a two-day vocabulary and camp orientation before entering the outdoor seminar.

Rosalita Roach, program director of Cheyenne River Resource Consortium, said the consortium sponsors the camp as part of Waonspekiya Oyasin, a language revitalization project for teachers.

"It's a full-immersion camp," Roach said. "They're going to use local resources, like the elders, for activities and for conversation."

Cultural aspects, such as set-up of the camp, storytelling and music will be a part of the experience, she said. But it also demands full participation from the students.

"Once campers go in, they can't come out," she said. "That is, if they want to earn their credits."

"It's going to be informational and educational," Barry Mann said.

Mann, Si Tanka University academic dean, said the basic idea behind the camp is to preserve the Lakota language.

"It's what makes us the people that we are," he said.

It's the first time the camp has focused on adults and teachers, and will incorporate a lot of the values, tradition and culture of the Lakota people, he said.

Sponsored by Waonspekiya Oyasin, Si Tanka University and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Language Department, the camp runs June 1-6.

Pre-camp courses will begin June 1 at Si Tanka University at the Eagle Butte campus. Language teachers and university officials will introduce Lakota vocabulary, class syllabus, orientation and core concepts.

Campers are asked to bring their own tents, bedrolls and gear. A complete list of what to bring will be provided at pre-registration.

The camp experience costs $249 plus a $50 fee. The tuition and course fees will pay for the three-credit course work, materials and meals. Tuition is free to enrolled tribal members, with a priority to those living on the reservation.

Language campers will arrive for check-in at noon to 1 p.m. June 3 at the site. Maps to the site will be given to students at the orientation.

The camp offers Lakota introduction course for 35 students; Lakota II for 35 students; Lakota III for 15 students and Lakota IV for 15 students. The participants will have an on-site camp experience. Family-centered, campers are welcome to bring their children, ages 5 and older. Children's activities will be provided. Campers would have to provide their own babysitters for very young children.

"Based on people's interest, we may have to do it again," Mann said.

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