SISSETON, S.D. (KELO) — In many cases, for Native Americans, losing elders within the tribes also means losing a piece of history, especially when they are language speakers.
The Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe on the Lake Traverse Reservation has lost some of their language speakers to COVID-19.
Jeremy Red Eagle, the program’s director for the Dakota Language Institute, says their language represents the world view of the tribe. So, they’ve been working to preserve the Dakota language and pass it down to the younger generations as best as they can.
“We already are in a, I would say our own pandemic when it comes to the loss of our language and so now this is just added to that. And we, not only are we losing some of our fluent speakers, but it’s also making it more difficult for those of us that work with our fluent speakers to be able to do that because of safety reasons. You know, worried about keeping them safe and not exposing them to this virus, so being able to meet with them and then they themselves not being able to meet with each other and speak with each other and keep their language strong is definitely affecting us negatively,” Red Eagle said.
In tonight’s Eye on KELOLAND at 10 p.m., Lauren Soulek explores how COVID-19 is impacting the tribe and it’s history.