Dakota people realize today that their language is in danger of becoming an extinct language. There is not an accurate census of fluent speakers available for all Dakota communities but the majority of fluent speakers are elderly and there are few if any young fluent speakers today. Although efforts are being made to preserve and document the Dakota language, children need speak Dakota from birth as their first language to swing the momentum away from language extinction.
Many efforts are under way to help build that momentum. Those efforts involve teaching the language in different settings and using different methods to help learners start their path to achieving proficiency and one day becoming fluent speakers.
The Dakota language is being taught at post-secondary level in several locations. The University of Minnesota Twin Cities & Morris, Metropolitan State University, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, University of North Dakota, Sisseton Wahpeton Tribal College, and Canhdeska Cik’ana tribal college are some of the different locations where the Dakota language is taught at the post-secondary level. The University of Minnesota Twin Cities offers a Dakota language teaching certificate program and has a good track record of creating proficient speakers, many of whom go on to become more advanced speakers, teachers, and language activists.
The Dakota language is offered at the elementary level at Anishinabe Academy (Minneapolis, MN) and at American Indian Magnet (St. Paul, MN), Yellow Medicine East (Granite Falls, MN), Tiospa Zina (Old Agency, SD). Starting in Fall 2014 the Bdote Early Learning Center will offer Dakota language immersion class for grades K-3. These places are teaching children Dakota language at a young age, which is important to help create younger speakers. More Dakota language teachers will be needed to teach courses at these schools in the future.
There are also many Dakota language tables in the Twin Cities area and throughout Dakota speaking country. Language tables are held in the Twin Cities area, Shakopee, MN, Lower Sioux, Granite Falls, and many other places.
The focus in all of these places is on creating new speakers, whether they are young or old. All of the teachers, speakers, elders, parents, children, and Dakota allies wish to create more speaking capacity to make a healthy and hale Dakota language. So in the future they can point to this time period and say, “That is when the momentum swung towards language revival.”