photo shows a screen grab from the home page of the Lakota
language-only web site www.wiohanble.com. Two men, Peter Hill
and Matthew Rama, are responsible for the site which is the
latest effort from a group on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation
trying to preserve the language. (www.woihanble.com)
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) A new website created with a primarily
Native American audience in mind is posting news, features, sports
and weather entirely in Lakota the first of its kind to do
so in an attempt to help preserve a language that after forced
assimilation policies is now spoken by fewer than 2,000 people.
The site was developed by partners who have been involved in
several initiatives to embed the Lakota language in various aspects
of life. Their goal with Woihanble.com which translates to
"dream" is to get the language out of the classroom.
"Nowadays, everyone spends much of their daily life online;
visiting websites, reading news, checking the weather, browsing
social media, or any number of other activities," said Matthew
Rama, one of the creators. "But until now, there has never
been a site with as much content strictly in Lakota. So in that
respect, we are bringing the language to the people in a brand-new
Other media outlets provide news of interest to the community,
but in English. Woihanble.com's local news content comes from two
area weeklies that mostly focus on Native American issues. The site
has an agreement with those weeklies to translate stories into Lakota,
with links back to the original articles. And in recognition that
many people who speak the language well do not read it easily, news
stories include audio clips in Lakota.
March 7, 2016 photo provided by Lakota Immersion Childcare
shows, Peter Hill, left, and Matthew Rama posing outside the
day care center on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South
Dakota. Both Hill and Rama are responsible for the Lakota
language only website www.woihanble.com. They also run the
day care where they teach students the Lakota language. (Gloria
Warrior/Lakota Immersion Childcare)
"A lot of fluent speakers are not necessarily accustomed
to reading 1,500-word articles on arcane subjects," said Peter
Hill, another of the website's creators. "So having the audio
version and having the article read to you is going to make it a
lot more accessible to a lot more people."
The Lakota people say their language originated from the creation
of the tribe, long before Europeans came to North America. But the
number of speakers has shrunk through the decades, falling to 6,000
by the early 2000s and to just 2,000 as of last year. Those remaining
have an average age approaching 70.
A chief reason for the decline of Lakota speakers is a now-halted
federal education mandate that in the late 19th century and early
20th century forced Native American children into boarding schools,
where they were required to speak English and were punished if they
were caught speaking their native languages. That limited or erased
the Lakota fluency of some Native Americans who later were unable
or unwilling to teach it to their children.
David Posthumus, an assistant professor of Native American studies
at the University of South Dakota, said efforts to preserve the
language can be bolstered by providing people with real-world resources.
"If you are learning German, Spanish or whatever, you have
all kinds of novels, books, movies, TV shows, media, news organizations
that you can to and get that kind of practical experience outside
the classroom, and you don't always get that with Lakota,"
Posthumus said. "The ultimate goal is to inspire and empower
younger generations to speak, comprehend, read and write the Lakota
Articles on the site now cover topics like meth on the reservation
and a protest against an oil pipeline. The creators plan to post
several news stories every week, and Hill will write some original
The website's creators are involved in other efforts to promote
the language, including a Lakota immersion day care on the Pine
Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota that's funded by federal,
state and private grants. The website does not have specific funding
on its own, but is considered part of the same project.