Friends Remember Lakota Studies Instructor

May 15th, 2001 | By | Category: 12-4: Colleges for the Community, Tribal College News

Doris Leader Charge served as Lakota language instructor at Sinte Gleska University (SGU) on the Rosebud Reservation for 27 years. “She was a driving force behind the comprehensive Lakota Studies degree programs,” according to SGU President Lionel Bordeaux. The past few years Leader Charge chaired the SGU Lakota Studies Department and also served on the Board of Regents several terms as staff director.

In April 1992 Leader Charge accompanied Hollywood director, producer, and actor, Kevin Costner, on stage to accept the Academy Award for Best Picture for the movie, Dances with Wolves. “Her smile lit up the stage far more than the thousands of camera flashes as she spoke Lakota in her acceptance speech,” according to Bordeaux. It was the first time a Native person accepted an Academy Award, and she remembered it as one of her proudest moments. Leader Charge translated the Dances with Wolves movie script into Lakota and taught all the actors in the movie to speak the Lakota language, while also acting in the movie.

In her 27 years of teaching at SGU, Leader Charge developed new language teaching methods that were effective in breaking down many of the barriers the students held toward learning the language. She felt students should learn to speak the Lakota language to understand their culture, identity, and sacred practices. She and her husband, Fred, served as advisors for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Native American Higher Education Initiative, Capturing the Dream.

Doris Leader Charge was born May 4, 1930. She was in poor health in recent years, but she continued to teach. “She always said she wouldn’t retire, and they would have to take her out of there on a stretcher,” said Cheryl Crazy Bull, her long time friend and colleague. On Feb. 20, she laid down to take a nap in the Lakota Studies office and never woke up. She leaves behind a husband, Fred, five children, many grandchildren and great grandchildren, and her family of fellow staff and faculty at Sinte Gleska University.

The family asks that any donations be sent to Sinte Gleska University (P.O. Box 490, Rosebud, S.D. 57570) for a memorial scholarship in the name of Doris Leader Charge.

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