Restoring Native languages is essential to the preservation of Native culture, and there are many groups doing their part to restore the languages that began disappearing after colonization.
The Lakota Language Consortium (LLC) is one of those groups. In June 2010, the consortium decided to dub 20 episodes of the Berenstain Bears, or Mat?ó Waú?šila Thiwáhe—The Compassionate (Generous, Kind) Bear Family—into Lakota. According to the LLC website, this project will further one of its vision statements to “provide every Lakota child with the means to become a speaker of Lakota as a first language within the home.”
Ben Black Bear, an LLC board member and Rosebud Sioux Tribe member, supplies the voice of Papa Bear. He grew up speaking Lakota before he learned English.
“I didn’t realize that more and more people are losing the language and less and less people are speaking it,” he told Amber Schatz, of KX News, in a video posted at MakocheVision.com.
“If they can use it at home in ordinary situations, that’s what’s going to keep the language alive,” Black Bear told Kx News.
Wilhelm Meya, executive director of LLC, told Kx News he feels “it’s one of the few languages left in the U.S. that have a chance of making it, so we consider it to be sort of a linguistic treasure.” He also pointed out that they are targeting a younger audience because the average age of Lakota speakers is around 60 years old.
According to the original project press release, 13 Lakota speakers spent two weeks in July 2010 recording the adventures of the bear family who live in a tree house.
LLC recently reported that the project, which emphasizes the qualities of compassion, patience, generosity, hospitality, and respect—all important in the Lakota culture—is now in post-production.
The episodes will be broadcast on South Dakota Public Television this fall and the DVD and teacher’s guide will be available this summer. For more information visit Lahkota.org.