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Immersion in a Language: Sapa Un Summer Immersion Program

Cargo“In talking to many younger Lakota people,” says Jody Jackson, head teacher of the Sapa Un Academy “we found that they didn’t know enough about the Lakota side of themselves, including their cultural heritage, which caused a lot of struggles. As we have developed the Sapa Un Academy, we have included Lakota based curriculum to help students embrace who they are, become their authentic selves and be the strong Lakota leaders that our community needs.”

 One of the ways that our school, the Sapa Un Academy, has incorporated Lakota teachings into our curriculum is by holding a Lakota immersion camp this summer. The camp ran for 3 weeks in July and is required for 3rd – 5th grade students at the Sapa Un Academy. Students focus on learning Lakota language, history and culture while keep up skills that they have learned during the school year.

The camp is designed to reinforce information learned during school, but also to open up students to even more knowledge about their Lakota heritage. “The Immersion camp is taught by Deacon Ben Black Bear, a fluent Lakota speaker who contributes to many projects aimed at keeping the Lakota language alive,” says Jackson. “He teachers our regular Lakota classes during the year, and at the Immersion Camp, leads students in learning more Lakota language as well as history and culture.”

In addition to language lessons, which are often woven into hikes, arts, crafts and other activities, campers visit historical sites such as the Buechel Memorial Lakota Museum and Spotted Elk’s grave. Students also take part in ceremonies and songs, and learn the history behind these activities. They also engage in learning traditional arts and crafts.

“While all of our students are Lakota, they come from a mix of backgrounds – some are traditional families and some aren’t traditional at all. What we want to do with the Immersion Camp, and our Lakota studies during the school year, is to build strong Lakota leaders who can be strong and know that it is ok to walk in both worlds.”

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