The Lakhól’iyapi Wahóhpi (Lakota Language Nest) is a 100% Lakota language immersion preschool located at Sitting Bull College in Fort Yates, North Dakota. The Language nest has expanded in the past few years to include Wichákini Owáyawa – a Kindergarten, first grade and second grade classroom. The school brings parents and community together for the revitalization of Lakota language, values and traditions—the cultural core that is contingent on the health and wellness of the Standing Rock Oyate.
The Restorative Teachings Initiative has provided parents, teachers, and students with a remarkable opportunity to embrace a holistic approach to language learning. The initiative has brought a fruitful collaboration between Lakhól’iyapi Wahóh
pi/Wichákini Owáyawa, the Sitting Bull College Division of Education, and Kampus Kids Learning Center. Each program is supporting Lakhótiyapi by integrating Lakota language and culture in their program with monthly themes, which lesson plans are built around.
Since March 2016, using these themes as a guide, the Language Nest has been busy incorporating hands-on cultural activities promoting sustainability, food sovereignty, and wellness into the curriculum. For example, as part of classroom activities to learn the alphabet, K-2 students learned how their Lakota ancestors used plants to make dyes (Ilúlye) for porcupine quills and other decorative materials.
Students boiled various plants for an hour and then chopped up them up. When cooled, the children created colored dyes from the plants and used them to paint on muslin. This was a cultural activity for the letter “Ii,” which integrated scientific standards, promoted independence by showing children how to create their own materials, and was taught fully in the Lakota language. Teachers have incorporated many other cultural activities, including traditional food preservation through dehydration and the creation of prayer ties for water (an important and topical issue for the Standing Rock community) into the classroom.
For members of the Standing Rock community, the community’s strength and health depends on the vitality of the Lakota language. Through our work with the Restorative Teachings Initiative, we’re able to ensure that the youngest speakers of the tribe are healthy and receiving support spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically. In the next few months, our parents and educators are looking forward to joint training sessions and a bigger push for family engagement and community awareness.
Post by Yuliya Manyakina, Restorative Teachings Project Director, Sitting Bull College