Since January 2016, The Language Conservancy has been working in partnership with the Fort Peck Tribes’ Language & Culture Department to develop Nakoda (Assiniboine) and Yanktonai Dakota Vocab Builders.
The Vocab Builders are free apps that will allow learners of Nakoda and Yanktonai Dakota to quiz themselves to learn various categories – animals, food, weather and more. The apps are “smart flashcard apps”, which track a players’ progress; words that are not matched correctly are repeated until the player masters them. The apps will also include a number of traditional songs from the Fort Peck Tribes.
These Vocab Builders are just one piece of Fort Peck’s ongoing initiative to restore and revitalize Nakoda and Dakota languages and cultures.
“[…] This initiative will serve as the active venue for addressing the complex family, educational, spiritual, cultural, health, and societal issues facing the Nakoda and Dakota people of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. The department envisions the emergence and acceptance of our traditional languages and cultures, into the daily lives of the people to instill a rebirth of their cultural identity, which is dignified to become an integral part of their contemporary lives.” (From the Fort Peck Language Preservation website)
In fact, the apps are one of Fort Peck’s deliverables for the Montana Indian Language Program (MILP) – a statewide initiative to preserve and uphold American Indian languages (http://businessresources.mt.gov/MILP).
Both Nakoda and Dakota, which are spoken on the Fort Peck Reservation, are part of the Siouan language family and are closely related to Lakota. However, while Yanktonai Dakota can be understood by Lakota speakers, Assiniboine and Lakota are not mutually intelligible (source: New Lakota Dictionary). But, despite sharing many words in common, Lakota and Yanktonai Dakota retain their own linguistic nuances, so the same words may carry slightly different meanings
According to anecdotal evidence reported by Fort Peck community members, there are approximately 35 Dakota and 25 Assiniboine first-language speakers in the community.
Despite the challenge, Fort Peck Tribes are fully committed to revitalizing their languages, reversing those numbers and creating new speakers. Ramey Growing Thunder, Director of the Language and Culture Department, envisions the Fort Peck Language Preservation initiative eventually leading to a Tribal Immersion School.
“I recommend Native Language to be taken more serious by everyone and continue to stand up for your language as it is the carrier of our cultures,” commented Growing Thunder. “Together we all aspire to change our worlds and make this place we call Uŋčí Makȟá a better world for our people and most importantly for the ones yet to be born. We lead by example and walk the talk with reverence and acknowledgements to our ancestors, who have made ‘the journey,’ to guide, direct, and inspire us to shoot beyond the stars.”
The Language Conservancy team is glad for the opportunity to work with the Fort Peck Language and Culture Department Staff, which includes:
Del First, Dakota Instructor/Researcher
Ronn Moccasin, Sr., Nakoda Instructor/Researcher
Rich Peterson, Media Coordinator
April Nation, Administrative Assistant, and
Ramey Growing Thunder, Director
To get in touch with the Language & Culture Department, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 406.768.3520. Find out more at www.fortpecklanguagepreservation.com or visit http://www.fortpecktribes.org/language_culture.html
The Vocab Builder applications and all their rights belong to the Fort Peck Tribe.