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Sisseton Wahpeton College announced on May 8, 2020 the certification of four new Dakota language instructors through its Dakota Studies program. Gabriel Akipa, Travis Herrick, Raven LaFromboise, and Tanner Sager all completed the requirements for Dakota Language Teaching Certification with the Sisseton Wahpeton College (SWC) and the State of South Dakota.

Gabriel Akipa enrolled as a student at SWC in 2018 and became a Dakota Language Learner in the Voices of Our Ancestors (VOA) program in 2019. He will continue to further develop his proficiency and teaching skills in the Dakota language by working as a Dakota Language Apprentice in the VOA program. Gabriel believes that “Dakota wounhdakapi kihan ake daunkotapte do!” (When we all speak Dakota, we will be Dakota again).

Travis Herrick enrolled as a student at SWC in 2017 and joined the VOA program in 2018 as a Dakota Language Learner. In 2019, he was hired as an immersion teacher at Enemy Swim Day School where he continues to work. He shared, “Dehan anpetug dena, Oyate kin taku ota cinpi, tka nina conana kin he taku cinpi ahtanipi” (These days, the people want so much, but very few work towards what they want).

Raven LaFromboise became a Dakota Language Learner in 2018 and completes her program with her certification. A message she has for the community is, “Daunkotapi, kiksuye” (remember, we are Dakota). She volunteers her time with Canku Piya and will continue to share and teach what she has learned.

Tanner Sager joined the program as a Dakota Language Learner in January 2019 and was appointed to the position of Dakota Language Apprentice that September. “Ohinni Ate Wakatanka anagoptan yanke heun Dakota ia unnispe yacin kinhan wocekiya wo Oniciye kte” (The Creator is always listening and so if you want to learn to speak Dakota then say a prayer, he will help you). He will continue in his role as a Dakota Language Apprentice.

In 2008, the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate (SWO) Tribal Council declared a State of Emergency for the Dakota Language. Responding to the critical need of the community, Sisseton Wahpeton College established the Dakota Language Teaching Certificate in 2014 and the Voices of Our Ancestors adult Dakota language program in 2017. To broaden the impact and effort of Dakota language vitalization in the community, the SWO Tribal Council declared the Dakota Language as the official language of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate in 2019 with support from a strategic plan developed by the Sisseton Wahpeton College Dakota Studies Department. The SWC Dakota Language Teaching Certificate is a two year academic program with the goal of developing new, highly skilled teachers proficient in the Dakota language.

The SWC Voices of Our Ancestors program, supported by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, is a rigorous two-year program that funds Dakota Language Learners and Apprentices to learn to speak and teach Dakota language full-time.

Left to right, from top: Travis Herrick, Raven LaFramboise, Tanner Sager, and Gabriel Akipa.

For more information on Dakota Language programming at Sisseton Wahpeton College, please visit www.swcollege.edu or contact Erin Griffin at egriffin@swcollege.edu or 605-698-3966 ext. 1293.