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ERIC Number: EJ841992
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 4
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0095-182X
Reading and Writing the Lakota Language: Yes, We Can!
Washburn, Franci
American Indian Quarterly, v27 n1-2 p429-432 Win-Spr 2003
As was this author's usual habit at the university in Nebraska where she was teaching, she picked up a copy of the campus newspaper to read during her office hours. She was dismayed at a story entitled "Lakota May Appear on Sheridan County Polls." It read, in part: "Sheridan County's polls may have to add an unexpected language to the ballots this November. A mandate from the United States Department of Justice might result in the addition of Lakota Sioux language assistance to the ballots for Sheridan County." The article went on to say that because the Sioux language has many dialects, the county would have to go with predominant dialect, probably Lakota Sioux. The article concluded, "Also, Sioux is an oral language, so it can't simply be written on the ballots." She was shocked that the newspaper would print such an erroneous statement--that Lakota is not a written language. The author immediately called the newspaper and asked to speak to the person whose byline appeared beneath the story, but was told that she was not available. She then asked to speak to the editor of the paper, who was a student. She gave her name, stated that she is a Lakota person, and told this person that their story was wrong and why, and asked her to print a correction. Her answer astounded her. She said, "Oh, no, you are wrong. We always check out our stories before we print them, and this one came from a reliable source." This experience illustrates that Lakota people--and Indian people in general--are not authorities on their own languages, culture, and spirituality. Only white people can say whether they are even literate. This problem is more than just a lack of respect for the Native American's authority on their own language and culture, but the newspaper story promulgates the assumption that Native people are not only nonliterate, but "illiterate," even in their languages. It seems ironic to the author that some white people ignorantly assume that Native Americans are ignorant. (Contains 4 notes.)
University of Nebraska Press. 1111 Lincoln Mall, Lincoln, NE 68588-0630. Tel: 800-755-1105; Fax: 800-526-2617; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Nebraska