About This Episode
Rising Voices/Hótȟaŋiŋpi is a portrait of a culture today, focusing on the myriad conflicts around the disappearing language on the Lakota reservations of North and South Dakota. The Lakota nation consists of 170,000 tribal members. Yet the language is clearly at risk -- just 6,000 people still speak Lakota now, and the average age of its speakers will soon be 70 years.
Before Columbus, Lakota was one of 300 Native languages spoken north of Mexico. Only half of those languages remain; experts say that by the year 2050 just 20 indigenous American languages will exist. Today, Lakota tribal members, in partnership with non-Indians, struggle to save their native language by introducing a new way of teaching, brought to the Lakota reservations from places like the Czech Republic and France. These methods are producing results; for the first time, schools are capable of creating fluent second-language Lakota speakers. The new methods are helping the Lakota language to find its voice again.