episodes of the cartoon Berenstain Bears have been translated
into Lakota. (Submitted photo)
nonprofit organization composed of Native American community
leaders, linguists and volunteers that works to revitalize
the Lakota language.
organization works with about 50 schools in the region,
focusing on larger Native American communities in South
Dakota and North Dakota.
teachers and develop Lakota language materials to assist
in educating Lakota children and increase the number of
main office is in Bloomington, Ind., and the regional
office is in Pierre, SD.
the popular Berenstain Bears cartoon characters will help bring
the Lakota language to life in homes across the region.
episodes of the animated cartoon series will be translated, recorded
and broadcast on South Dakota Public Television starting in the
fall of next year, with all dialogue in Lakota.
the first time in the United States that any cartoon series has
been translated to a Native American language and widely distributed,
said Wilhelm Meya, executive director of Lakota Language Consortium,
a nonprofit organization that partnered with the Standing Rock Sioux
Tribe to co-produce the Lakota version of the series.
DVD and teacher's guide also will be released next summer to be
used in area schools.
super exciting and such a powerful vehicle," Meya said. "We
needed something that would work well to attract kids to a language,
and it's just magical to see it all come together."
said less than 10 percent of the 125,000 Lakota people in the region,
which primarily consists of South Dakota and North Dakota, speak
the ancient language. The goal is to use the modern cartoon as an
educational tool to teach young people the language.
you see Lakota being used in a kitchen and a whole family interacting,
it just makes the language so real and not so much of an abstract
concept that you learn in school," Meya said.
said the Berenstain Bears cartoon series works well to educate kids
on the Lakota language because of the heavy use of hand gestures.
That makes it easy for non-speakers to have a sense of what's happening.
so much context and gesturing that create hints," he said.
"It will help kids understand."
said the project is being paid for primarily through the Standing
Rock Sioux Tribe. Mike Berenstain of Berenstain Enterprises waived
all licensing fees for the tribe to complete the educational series.
Carlow, tribal education manager for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe,
said students have about an hour a week of Lakota language in school,
but the tribe wanted the language to play a larger role in the lives
of children and their families.
project "is a way of competing with the mainstream in a way
that makes it relevant to our youth today, but is a big part in
keeping our tradition and cultures alive," she said.
25 people have been working on the project for nine months, and
15 voice actors spent three weeks in July in Bismarck, N.D., recording
10 episodes. Meya hopes to have the final 10 recorded by December.
Mike Rounds, who declared 2010 a Year of Unity in South Dakota,
was traveling Monday, but said in an e-mail that the Lakota language
is "an essential part of the rich Native American heritage,"
and he commends the efforts to ensure the language is not lost.
extremely important to pass along ancestral traditions and culture
to young people so they can someday do likewise with generations
to come," Rounds said.
Red Owl, who supplies the voice of Mama Bear, said the most difficult
part of the process was translating. Red Owl, who teaches at Little
Wound Middle School in Kyle, said the actors are from different
communities and speak Lakota in varying dialects. Deciding which
dialect to use was difficult.
said it also was challenging to translate words such as "Halloween"
that appear in episodes and are not part of the Lakota language.
Actors worked together to translate the lines in a way that would
be easiest for kids to understand.
Owl said kids are excited to see the show in Lakota on television.
keep asking me, 'When can we see it?' " she said. "This
is like another level of learning the Lakota language as far as