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Learning Lak̇ot̄iyap̄i Through Our Lakolya Waoniya Program

Hau mit̄ak̄uyep̄i-

Robert Bordeaux emac̄iyap̄e lo. Si̇ċaƞġu Lak̇ot̄a Oyat̄e emataƞhaƞ na lehaƞl Ikpisaƞla wakpá el wati yelo. Canté waśte nape ċiyuzape lo.

Hello relatives-

My name is Robert Bordeaux. I am from the Siċaƞġu Lak̇ot̄a Nation and I currently live in what is called Mission, South Dakota. I shake all of your hands with a good heart.

I am thankful to be able to introduce myself to you all in the Lak̇ot̄iyap̄i (Lakota Language). I am still learning a lot about what it means to introduce myself in the Lak̇ot̄iyap̄i, especially around spelling and utilizing the proper diacritic markings (following Lekṡi Albert White Hat’s orthography). But when I say these words out loud, each time getting better at the gutteral and nasal sounds, I feel a fire deep in my bones. And I feel closer to my ancestors, knowing I’m learning to speak in their tongue.

This is a small taste of what week one has felt like for us in the Lakolya Waoniya program.

We started this Lak̇ot̄iyap̄i journey together this past weekend at Hiƞhaƞ Kaġa (Black Elk Peak) in prayer and ceremony to welcome back the wakiƞyaƞ (thunder-beings). An aspect of the Lakolya Waoniya Program that is unique is the way it is designed to combine Lak̇ot̄a spirituality, philosophy, and language in the curriculum. The connection between all of these is inherently tied, and to experience all of them together has been life-changing. I’ve always said that I do not want to just speak english using Lak̇ot̄a sounds, I want to speak Lak̇ot̄iyap̄i from Lak̇ot̄a philosophy and thought. It’s hard to describe the joy I feel when I’m able to connect those dots on that deeper level, even just one week into the program.

We start off our days with prayer. We are all learning how to pray for each other in Lak̇ot̄iyap̄i. And when we do, we feel our ancestors with us, encouraging us to keep going. Next week will be our first week in full immersion, where the first four hours of our day will be learning with no english (if it is accidently spoken, we just say “Wasicuiye ṡni yo”). The second half of our days will be spent learning about Lak̇ot̄a philosophy, taught by various elders and community members who want to offer their knowledge.

We are tracking our progress, doing periodic progress checks via an interview with our Lak̇ot̄iyap̄i teacher Lekṡi Henry Quick Bear. We have big long-term plans as a group, hoping to create learning materials for the community. We also shared our individual hopes and dreams around our time in the Lakolya Waoniya Program and beyond, and I couldn’t help but be incredibly excited about each of us and what we will do beyond the program to carry on the language.

I shared with my Lak̇ot̄iyap̄i family how emotional I feel with everything we accomplished in our first week together. Many prayers have gone into this journey for us, and we feel that strength carrying us. I am proud of us, and I am proud to be Siċaƞġu.

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