top of page

Applications Open for Seven Full-Time Lakota Language Learners

The three-year pilot program is run by REDCO and has the goal of revitalizing the critically endangered Lakota language

For Release: December 13, 2021

SICANGU MAKOCE, Oceti Sakowin – The Rosebud Economic Development Corporation (REDCO) announced that it is seeking applicants for a new language preservation initiative designed to eliminate barriers for citizens to become fluent Lakota speakers. Lakolya Waoniya — “Breathing Life into the Lakota Language” — is a three-year, paid holistic development experience centered on developing Lakota language fluency and strengthening Lakota lifeways for future generations.

“Every Lakota person I’ve ever talked to wants to know and speak their language,” said Christina Johnston, the Project Manager for Lakolya Waoniya. “We all know that carrying on the language is necessary to maintain Lakota traditions and way of life, but learning a language is very time consuming and most people can’t afford to quit their job and dedicate themselves to being full-time learners. This program allows people to learn while continuing to receive a salary and benefits.”

Surveys conducted on the Rosebud Reservation have quantified the urgency behind preservation efforts. “The Rosebud Sioux Tribe has only a few hundred fluent speakers, and most of them are elders,” said Johnston. “With the COVID pandemic many Lakota relatives have been lost, especially our elders. It’s scary to think that within a generation or two there may not be any fluent Lakota speakers if we don’t come together and take drastic action.”

The program is initially open only to enrolled citizens of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe age 18 and over. Applicants must have a passion for language preservation, reside on or near the Rosebud Reservation, be able to pass a background check, and be available Monday through Friday for six hours per day for programming. After applications close on January 21st the interview process will begin. Candidates who pass an initial screening will then be placed into a pool of eligible participants and seven participants will then be chosen from that pool by a random lottery.

Programming and instruction are scheduled to begin in spring of 2022 and the students will have the opportunity to choose their teacher after interviews and sample lessons from each candidate, who will be a fluent speaker. REDCO has also launched a community survey to gather input that will shape the way that participants are selected and how they are taught. Additionally, the program will continue to solicit input from spiritual and cultural experts to shape the program.

Leaders of Lakolya Waoniya hope that the program starts to change the way society views language learning and preservation. “We made the decision to house this initiative under our Human Resources department, because we see this as professional development and building our workforce,” said Sarah Hart, Human Resources Director for REDCO. “This isn’t a fellowship. This is about the survival of our language, culture, and economy.”

For more information, or to find a link to the application or community input survey visit

You can also watch this conversation with Christina Johnston that discusses the project and the journey that has led her to this project.

About the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation

REDCO is the economic development arm of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and is based on what is commonly known today as the Rosebud Reservation in southcentral South Dakota. REDCO leads an ecosystem of organizations working in tandem to create systemic change grounded in Lakota values. REDCO primarily focuses on enterprise and policy, while its sister organizations Sicangu CDC ( and Tatanka Funds ( focus on grassroots community development and asset building, respectively.


Contact: Aaron Epps, Marketing and Communications Director


Phone: (715) 896-1051


509 views0 comments
bottom of page