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Dakota, Nakoda Summer Language Programs Wrap Up For Students

The Fort Peck Tribes Language & Culture Department recently completed its 10th year of sponsoring annual summer language programs on the Fort Peck Reservation. The summer program ran from June 6 and 20 students were enrolled.

Dakota instructor Ethan Three Stars’ class had 10 students and Nakoda instructor Winona Runs Above also had 10 students.

Students ranged from 10 to 17 years old. Throughout the summer, students learned cultural activities such as harvesting berries, sage and wastemena and dug in the ground for tipsina (wild turnips). The students learned to recognize the leaves of the plant and its blossom as well as learning when is the best time is to dig them.

Part of the lessons involved learning language associated with plants and their traditional names. According to a press release, “The students also participated in the department- sponsored day camp at the Red Bottom Celebration in Frazer where a kahomani was held with prize drawings. We also held language classes where students began with learning how to introduce themselves in the Dakota and Lakota languages and everyday words and phrases used in daily life. In our cultural classes, they learned to make wojapi, a traditional pudding made with wild berries. And they made corn balls, an original fast food consisting of dried corn, buffalo fat, sweetener and dried berries. They made enough to take home to their families.”

Students prepared the corn and dried it in preparation for the class before grinding it to make the corn balls. They also visited the Tribes’ buffalo ranch and several historic sites on the reservation where they learned the stories behind them.

The program ended with the class taking a trip to Fort Peck Lake for swimming and a trip to the Trampoline Park in Williston.

The summer program was funded by a grant from the Montana Indian Language Program, which originated from Senate Bill 342, which was originally sponsored by then Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Box Elder.

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