Dakota Language and Culture Immersion
Wah-oh-koo: The Circle of Sharing
"Hinhanna Waste!" With "Good Morning!" the day begins. Starting this past September, three days out of the week, 20 children arrive at the Resource Center to attend the full-day Dakota Language and Culture Immersion Preschool. They are greeted by their instructors, Diane Merrick and Chad Nielson.
"Wana wota!" (Time to eat!). Breakfast is served after the children put their belongings away in the cubby holes marked with each child's Indian name (an animal spirit). After breakfast the class begins their morning lesson. The lessons vary from day to day to encompass a wide range of motor and sensory building activities such as music, table time, and circle time. During music, the children learn about the value and origin of the drum as this heartbeat accompanies most of the songs they learn. The children can fluently sing numbers 1-10 in Dakota and are working towards mastering 11-20. Table time consists of writing practice using the children's Indian names, alphabet review, and coloring. The images chosen for coloring time reflect important themes in Dakota culture: Ina & Ate (Mom & Dad), Unci & Okuna (Grandma & Grandpa), Ohoda (respect), O G'a Waste (generosity), and sacred animals. During circle time today, the instructors engage the children with lively storytelling. The children become eager participants in the experience of the story.
Lunch is served followed by playtime outside in the fresh air. After a nap, the afternoon arts and crafts lesson begins. The spirits of the children emerge as they enthusiastically work on projects involving beading, painting, and drawing. This time is also reserved for Dakota language games such as Dakota Hokey Pokey, which teaches the children the names of body parts in Dakota. Integrated into the entire day is a review of basic commands such as Anajoptan (Listen), Nape Gduzaza (Wash Your Hands), and Ohomni Iyotanka (Sit in a Circle).
In traditional Dakota culture, children are honored as powerful beings possessing much knowledge to share with others, especially family members. The Immersion Program is centered on this idea of reciprocal learning and sharing. The children are "Wah Kon Eh Zah Pe," which means, "They too are sacred."
The Dakota Language and Culture Immersion Program will continue to grow and develop over the years. Language is an amazing gift and one of the most important we have to offer to children. The Dakota language contains the values of a traditional life and love for one's family. Through the interaction with the preschoolers, we are able to witness the growth of respect for self, for family, for group, and for the community.
by Karen Grundy & Rachel Reichlin
"Hinhanna Waste" With Good Morning!" the day begins. The Dakota Language Immersion Programs meets 3 days a week for 6 weeks during the summer months of July and August. Between 20-24 children are registered each summer and the classes are held at the Native American Women's Health Resource Center.