Language is the difference between being a Dakota person and a person of Dakota descent.
For too long, our Dakota language was silenced, and our people were made afraid or ashamed to use it.
That silencing of our voices was part of an intentional termination policy aimed at ridding the United States of all Native Americans. Kill the language, and you kill the culture.
Despite those efforts, our language, like the Dakota Oyate, has persevered. With each generation, we are getting stronger, and our voices, joining together in our native tongue, are getting louder.
Recapturing the beauty and power of our Dakota language is a priority for the Prairie Island Indian Community.
Teaching our Community
Reintroducing the Dakota language to our people is not an easy task. Generational trauma brought on by the effects of genocide and the violent stripping of our Dakota culture and language is hard to overcome. As a result, many Dakota people continue to be afraid or ashamed to speak the language out of fear that they will face the same trauma and abuse that their ancestors endured.
The Prairie Island Indian Community is focused on healing and repairing the damage done over the years and helping its members recapture the spirit of the Dakota Oyate. The Dakota Language department provides members several opportunities to learn and use the language, including language classes, culture camps, and language-bowl competitions.
Soon, members will be able to access a Dakota-language app on their mobile phones. All these efforts aim to build interest and passion for the language and ensure its existence is never again threatened.
Teaching our Neighbors
Introducing a Dakota language program into the Red Wing High School is an important step forward in our Tribe’s effort toward sharing our Dakota Culture with others.
Led by a Tribal employee, who is also a licensed teacher, the course offers more than 30 high school students an introduction to the Dakota language. It is one of the few Native American language programs offered in Minnesota schools.
The Tribe also is focused on working with neighboring governments to identify opportunities for educating others about Dakota history and language. Educational exhibits at He Mni Can (Barn Bluff), and the Grand Meadow Chert Quarry are helping to share the Tribe’s history and connection to land, while also teaching others about our language.
Prairie Island Dakota Language App
The Dakota Language Department at Prairie Island Indian Community is currently working with an app development partner to build a Dakota Language App. This app will be an additional tool to help with continuing education of the language and is looking to be launched in Spring 2023.
Contact Dakota Language Instructor - Barry Hand
Barry Hand is the Prairie Island Indian Community Dakota language Instructor.