Sep 10, 2012 - Lakota Language Immersion Nest

By:  Thipiziwin Young


On September 10,2012, Lakȟól’yapi Wahóȟpi, the first immersion school/nest in the state of North Dakota, will open its doors.  Lakȟól’iyapi Wahóȟpi (Lakota Language Nest) is located within Sitting Bull College’s Kampus Kids daycare in Fort Yates.

Lakȟól’yapi Wahóȟpi is funded through a three year (2011-2012) Administration of Native Americans (ANA) grant.  The first year of the ANA grant consisted of curriculum building, teacher trainings, and setting up the classroom. The last two years is when the immersion language nest is in full operation.

Initially, the language nest will open with twelve 3-year-olds, who will attend school year round. On a daily basis, the children in the language nest will have six to eight hours of contact time with fluent and second language speakers/teachers in the Lakota language.  The parents of the children attending Lakȟól’yapi Wahóȟpi will be responsible for providing a support system for the children and staff.  They will be required to attend parent trainings, help with the maintenance of the classroom and assist with fundraising efforts.

The idea for the Lakota language nest began as a response to the rapid decline in the Lakota language on Standing Rock.  The hope is to directly influence the citizens of Standing Rock to take an interest in the revitalization and maintenance of the Lakota language as the language is the vital key to maintaining the identity and the distinct role of Lakota people.

While there are many language immersion school’s throughout the world, the Kōhanga Reo of the Maori people of New Zealand was the direct inspiration for the Lakȟól’yapi Wahóȟpi. In 1982, the first Kōhanga Reo was established in response to the deterioration of the Maori language.  Kōhanga Reo, means language nest in the Maori language and it is closely guided by the Maori worldview and by the Maori elders.  Inside of the Maori language nest there are four focal points: talking, learning, playing with other children, and praying all in the Maori language.

The success of the Kōhanga Reo in New Zealand as well as many Native American language immersion schools currently in operation throughout the United States, provide a great source of hope and inspiration in the revitalization efforts for the Lakota language.  In Montana, the Salish language of the Flathead Nation and the Blackfeet language are being reinforced in their communities with immersion schools.  Also the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and the Mohawk of the Haudenosaunee in New York are also currently experiencing success in producing speakers of their languages by operating immersion schools.

For many of the parents and staff, the learning of the Lakota language is a hope and goal that they will see fulfilled through the children.  The twelve children who attend the Lakȟól’yapi Wahóȟpi will have the exceptional opportunity of far more exposure to the Lakota language than the vast majority of children on Standing Rock have had in numerous generations.

For additional information visit the Lakȟól’yapi Wahóȟpi Facebook page or contact Sacheen White Tail – Cross at (701) 854-8034 or

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