Lakota Language Initiative- Start from the Beginning – Compassionate Impact Grant


The “language nest” (Iyapi Glukinipi) is a safety net created by educators, parents, and native speakers to provide a warm embrace for children immersed in Lakota Language. This nest is created to nurture the children at the Lakota Language Immersion Childcare, creating a group of Lakota first language learners, and developing a strong basis for fluent language development.

The Lakota Language Initiative is a program of  Thunder Valley CDC is located on Pine Ridge Reservation in Oglala County, South Dakota.  Language is essential to cultural literacy. Language is essential to personal and community empowerment. Language is essential to self-identity.

In a community that is dominated by English, the fluent Lakota speakers are dwindling; with only  6000 speakers that average 65 years old, there is a particular need to encourage younger speakers.  As seen throughout the world, languages, especially the languages of the First Languages, are in danger.  While losing a language can happen in a decade, changing the course takes a generation or more.

Before you can impact a generation, language acquisition, and learning has to begin somewhere, sometime.  For young children at the Lakota Immersion Childcare, Lakota language learning begins now, at age two, while the children are primarily pre-verbal.  This allows the program to shape early learners without an added complication of trying to teach second language learners in an English-dominated world.

Teaching language is more than an education project, it is the preservation of language that encompasses one of many human rights issues that are prevalent on reservation land.

Lakota Language Initiative also supports language outreach programs such as publishing and translating texts into Lakota, creating “neogisms” new Lakota words, and teaching Lakota to 2nd Language Learners.

We are proud to support the Lakota Language Initiative, a program of Thunder Valley CDC with our 2016 Compassionate Impact Grant.  The innovative program of the “language nest” in the childcare, cooperation with the pioneers of first nations language preservation, becoming part of the development of early childhood Lakota resources and curriculum, and supporting 2nd Language Learners, creates a holistic, growing, strong program to support native language growth in their community.

“We are doing everything that we can think of, and that we can’t think of to help save the language,” iterates Tamatane Ivatala, Education Coordinator of Lakota Language Childcare.

You can’t save a language with one action, but if you don’t start with at least one action, there will be no where to begin.

The Compassionate Impact Grant is awarded to an innovative non-profit organization and directed at an evidence-based capacity building program.  The CIG is a competitive request for proposal project of the Foundation Beyond Belief