Albert White Hat and Lakota Language Preservation

May 15th, 2013 | By | Category: 24-4: Language Revitalization, Web Exclusive
By Dr. Jurgita Antoine

Sicangu Lakota elder, teacher, and author Albert White Hat is a native speaker of the Lakota language. A grandson of Chief Hollow Horn Bear, White Hat grew up speaking Lakota in the Spring Creek community on the Rosebud Reservation. For the last 25 years, he has been teaching Lakota history and culture at Sinte Gleska University (Mission, SD).

White Hat has received numerous awards, including the Living Indian Treasure Award (2007), the National Indian Education Association’s Indian Elder of the Year (2001), and the Outstanding Indian Educator Award (1995). Last year, the University of Utah Press published his second book, Life’s Journey – Zuya: Oral Teachings from Rosebud (2012). His first book, Reading and Writing the Lakota Language: Lakota Iyapi un Wowapi nahan Yawapi (University of Utah Press, 1999), still remains the preferred Lakota language textbook on the Rosebud reservation.

In this video, White Hat speaks about the survival of the Lakota language through the centuries and its continuation into the future. He reminds us that Lakota comes with a distinct structure and thought pattern, Lakota tawoiyukcan, which is different from Indo-European languages. White Hat encourages the people to use resources from within the community to teach the language. His message is full of hope and inspiration.

Lakota Documentaries, an elder documentary project at Sinte Gleska University, produced the film. The late Don Moccasin (1948–2009) initiated the project in 2000. Over the last five years, the project team has worked to digitize Moccasin’s video collection and translate it from Lakota into English. Moccasin’s vision of native education was to transmit Lakota language and culture to future generations.

To this day, Lakota language is primarily oral, and therefore it must be heard and spoken to be learned. Whether the viewer lacks understanding of just a few words or does not speak the language at all, English subtitles make this video audience-friendly. This interview with Albert White Hat presents a unique opportunity for audiences everywhere to experience both the verbal and non-verbal components of the Lakota language.

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