Andre Cramblit andrekar at NCIDC.ORG
Fri Apr 29 19:34:09 UTC 2005

Lakota immersion camp teaches tribal language, traditions

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) -- Every morning for a week last summer, Karen
Little Wounded awoke in her tent at dawn to take part in a traditional
morning star ceremony. Every night, she would sing, dance and learn to
interpret dreams.

The rituals were part of a Lakota language and culture immersion camp
near Cherry Creek on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. Sponsored
by the tribe, Si Tanka University, the reservation's Takini School and
Waonspekiye Oyasin, a teacher training organization, the camp hosted
about 40 people interested in learning the Lakota way.

This year the camp is set to be held June 12-17 on the reservation.
Carole Rave, one of its organizers, said she expects there to be even
more campers this year.

"We started registration yesterday," Rave said Thursday. "I already got
messages from people in Rosebud who want to come."

Rave said the camp is a collaborative effort. For example, last year the
tribe donated portable toilets and sprayed the campsite for mosquitos.
Campers contributed food and a tribal member let the group camp on some
of his land in the Big Timber area near the Cheyenne River.

"It's a place where, years ago, our people camped by the thousands,"
Rave said.

Free for tribal members, the camp costs about $500 a day for others.
That money, along with funding from Waonspekiye Oyasin (pronounced
"Wah-own-SPECK-ee-yay ooh-ee-YAH-seen"), pays for the camp, Rave said,
adding that non-Indians are welcome.

Besides participation in traditional ceremonies, the camp offers
training in Lakota by language teachers from the reservation's various
schools and colleges. Those instructors often become students because
they are working toward certification as Lakota teachers, Rave said.

The classes count as college credit hours, up to six each day. Besides
basic Lakota for non-speakers, the classes teach Lakota history,
culture and philosophy. This year, there will be a course on poverty
and its effect on the tribe, Rave said.

She said tribal elders play an important role in the camp, both as
teachers and participants. Last year elders offered instruction in
traditional practices such as drying meat and erecting tipis, and were
honored with a dance, Rave said.

"It's such a nice setting that usually in the evening the elders stay
longer. They don't want to come back to town," she said.

Little Wounded said the camp was a great experience. She originally
intended to volunteer there, but ended up as a participant. Her
favorite activity, she said, was a presentation by a tribal elder on
women's roles in traditional Lakota society.

"It was really fun," Little Wounded said. "I'm going back again this

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