SWC Produces Rap Song In Dakotah Language

May 15th, 2006 | By | Category: 17-4: Reforming Our Schools, Native Style, Tribal College News

The first rap song ever recorded in the Dakotah language was produced in a joint effort by Sisseton Wahpeton College (SWC) and the Association on American Indian Affairs (AIAI). The rap song, titled “Wicozani Mitawa” (My Life), was recorded at a studio on the college campus in Sisseton, SD, on the Lake Traverse Reservation. The rap song represents one of many innovations by the tribal college in its campaign to revitalize the language.

SWC President Dr. William Harjo Lone Fight hailed the song for its creativity and importance. He told UCWE Newswire, “For a language to flourish it has to be used. That is the bottom line. This song helps bring Dakota into the 21st century as a living language with relevance to our youth.”

SWC and AAIA are encouraging people to make a copy of the rap song CD so the Dakotah language can be heard by as many Dakota youth as possible. “The concept is to have an entire generation of young people actually hear Dakotah being used,” according to AAIA Native Language Program Director Tammy Decoteau.

The Dakotah lyrics for the song were first written in English by Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota member Tristan Eastman and then translated into Dakotah and edited by Dakota elders Orsen Bernard, Edwina Bernard, Wayne Eastman, Olivia Eastman, V. June Renville, and Delbert Pumpkinseed. Tristan Eastman then performed the song in Dakotah to music written by Tim Laughter.

The collaboration between elders and youth resulted in a Dakotah rap song that is the first of its kind. “Some of the Dakotah words had really deep meaning. When translating we were trying to interpret what that young person [Tristan Eastman] was saying and put a lot of positive thinking in there,” translator Orsen Bernard said.

The CD with liner notes is available for sale through the SWC bookstore, with 100% of the profits going back into future Dakotah language projects like the rap song.

The partnership between the tribal college and the AAIA has created several Dakotah language revitalization projects that have utilized modern media to reach Dakota youth, including books, PowerPoint presentations, DVDs, CDs, an animation piece that was nominated for Best Animation at the Native Voices Film Festival, and now a rap song.

The Dakota Letters Symposium last summer exemplifies another of the tribal college’s language projects. The 4-day conference focused upon letters written by Dakota people imprisoned after the 1862 U.S. – Dakota Conflict.

The American Indian College Fund provided a cultural preservation grant for the project, which involved gathering the 150-year-old letters and getting them translated by local elders. The symposium drew scholars and historians from around the country. Several participants read letters written by their ancestors, stirring deep, emotional responses.

For more information about the rap CD, phone the Sisseton Wahpeton College book store at (605) 698-3966, or see the website, www.swc.tc.

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