Groundbreaking New Documentary Raises Hope For Saving Lakota Language

Rising VoicesNow Available on DVD

Published on August 6, 2015

LINCOLN, NEBRASKA — Vision Maker Media and the Language Conservancy announce the release of Rising Voices to DVD. The film tells the story about the struggles to save the Lakota language, braiding together the efforts of the Lakota to learn their tribal language today, the historical attempt by the United States to annihilate the language, the rise of immersion language schools, and the participation of outsiders in the rescue of the Lakota language. History is interwoven with present-day short films about the culture, created by Lakota filmmakers and artists.

Rising Voices is a portrait of a culture today, focusing on the myriad conflicts around the disappearing language on the Lakota reservations of North and South Dakota. The Lakota nation consists of 170,000 tribal members. Yet the language is clearly at risk — just 6,000 people still speak Lakota now, and the average age of its speakers will soon be 70 years.

Before Columbus, Lakota was one of 300 Native languages spoken north of Mexico. Today only half of those languages remain; experts say that by the year 2050 just 20 indigenous American languages will exist.

Today, Lakota tribal members, in partnership with non-Indians, struggle to save their native language by introducing a new way of teaching, brought to the Lakota reservations from faraway places like the Czech Republic and France. These methods are producing results; for the first time, schools are capable of creating fluent second-language Lakota speakers. The new methods are helping the Lakota language to find its voice again.

The threat to Lakota comes from two sources. One is history itself: for many decades the American government tried to defuse what its leaders saw as “the Indian problem” by deliberately eliminating all aspects of Indian cultures. From 1879 on, thousands of Lakota (and other Native American) children were sent away to English-only boarding schools like Carlisle Indian Industrial School, which cut off their hair, enforced Christianity, and routinely beat children for the offense of speaking their native languages. Native Americans, it was thought, could only be assimilated into mainstream American society if they spoke English and only English exclusively.

After years of attempting to destroy North American culture and annihilate Native American languages–too often with great success–the government eventually did an about-face. Today the United States officially recognizes the value in diversity in both culture and language.

The Lakota language expresses the history of the tribe and its culture, and serves as a point of pride and tribal connection to the  Lakota people. The history of the Lakota language is interwoven with two other elements in the film: 1) present-day scenes of people wrestling with both the language and the hard facts of their lives, and 2) four short films about the culture, created by Lakota filmmakers and artists themselves especially for Rising Voices/Hótȟaŋiŋpi.

Rising Voices, a one-hour documentary, is now available U.S., 2015, 57 minutes, Color, DVD.
DVD with Public Performance Rights: $225.00
Home: $29.95

To place an order:
Or call 877-868-2250.


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