The Christian Science Monitor

To keep the Dakota language alive, a young woman looks to preschoolers

Vanessa Goodthunder, director of Lower Sioux Head Start, stands beside the Redosier dogwood, also known as red willow, that is used to make traditional tobacco. Ms. Goodthunder's immersion school for children from birth to age 5 is scheduled to open in June. Source: J.p. Lawrence

As night falls on a brisk Valentine’s Day in rural Minnesota, clamoring children emblazon canvas cards with words from the indigenous Dakota language: Ina (mother). Ate (father). Canteciye (l love you). Iyotancida (I hold you very highly). 

In the midst of the moving scrum, Vanessa Goodthunder quiets the room and leads the children in a Dakota song of thanks. The scene, involving children of a variety of ages at a community center at the Lower Sioux Indian Community, is a preview of efforts Ms. Goodthunder believes will revitalize the Dakota language.

Goodthunder, who recently graduated with a master's degree in education, started an immersion school for Early Head Start and preschool students (ages birth to 5). There, teachers will speak only in Dakota, which is

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