Earlier this week, over one million people from around the world “checked in” to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation via Facebook. “Checking in” is an easy way for people to show support for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. The tribe is protesting oil pipeline construction that they believe threatens their water supply as well as sacred archaeological sites.
But let’s leave politics aside for the moment. As the visibility of the protest has grown, so has the visibility of the tribes’ native language. Do you want to learn more about the Sioux language? Are you curious about the meaning of native words you’ve seen protestors and supporters use? Here are some fast facts about the language and some Sioux translations.
Fast Facts About the Sioux Languages
- 20 to 30 thousand native speakers of Dakota and Lakota, the two major Sioux dialects, still live today in North America.
- Linguists often classify Dakota and Lakota as separate languages, and each has its own dialects and subdialects. However, they are so closely related that they are mostly mutually intelligible.
- Counting all dialects together, Sioux is the fifth most common indigenous language in North America.
- That said, Ethnologue lists it as threatened because not enough children are learning it.
- Sioux has some words that only one gender uses. For example, only men use the greeting “Hau.” The female equivalent is “han.”
- You can watch the Berenstain Bears in Lakota.