For my independent project, I made a felted child’s toy to explore Lakota Language. The point is to explain the importance of early language acquisition before puberty to revitalize the Lakota language. The problem is that the Lakota language is disappearing. People aged 40+ are fluent, whereas people in the younger generations can barely understand Lakota. English is taking over because of media, practicality, social reasons, education, and more. To create a stronger Lakota identity and revitalize the Lakota language before it goes extinct, scholars suggest and earlier introduction to children and stronger presence in schools, local life, and media.
I made a felt background of South Dakota, and wrote “I Speak Lakota” at the top in Lakota. It turns out that felt is hard to glue. Even with gorilla glue and wood glue like stiff gloves on my hands, the felt just peeled away. I ended up stitching the felt together.
Next I made eight pockets with animal names stitched into them. Felted animals correspond to each word and just barely stick out of the pocket. The idea is to start to recognize Lakota names of animals. To hear the Lakota pronunciation of these animals and many other words, follow the link: http://1onewolf.com/lakota/language1.htm#wildlife
I saw a huge connection to linguistic anthropology themes in the translated oral history of the origin of the word “Oglala.” Most of the Lakota Sioux at Pine Ridge are from the Oglala branch, and the title was written on signs and was the name of a college.
The word Oglala means “those who throw in ash in their eyes.” The linguistic translation from Lakota to English is here: http://www.indiana.edu/~aisri/projects/deloria/OriginOfTheNameOglala.pdf
Basically, the story goes like this: Many generations ago, a very poor family found an iron arrowhead in a piece of meat. The three sons fought over it, and eventually one threw ash from the fire place into the eyes of the others. He got the iron piece while the other boys walked away crying. The story spread and the family became known as the “people with ash in their eyes.” The name stuck and is now the official tribe name.
There are several themes here. The largest is the concept of oral history. The second half of the story is the speaker saying how true it is because his grandfather told it that way. Other theories on the origin of the word that are written and published are false. Truth is in oral history.Another theme is that language is constantly changing, to adapt new words, accents, slang, and effects of globalization. The last theme is the Lakota language’s connection to the Lakota identity, through elders and stories passed down by them.
For several awesome story telling videos, go to: http://lakotastories.edublogs.org/lakota-stories-videos/