(from The Herald-Times
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - The Lakota Language Consortium (LLC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the Lakota Sioux language, was awarded the prestigious Ken Hale Prize
by the Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas (SSILA)
) last Saturday, January 7th at the Linguistics Society of America
meeting in Albuquerque. The prize and cash award were presented in recognition of the organization's outstanding community language work and deep commitment to the documentation, maintenance, promotion, and revitalization of the Lakota languag- one the country's largest remaining Native American languages.
Named after the renowned MIT linguist, the Ken Hale Prize recognizes the LLC's close work with the Lakota language community and its efforts to save and revitalize the language. As this country's leading prize for language revitalization work, it honors those who strive to link the academic and community spheres in the spirit of Ken Hale.
Pam Bunte, SSILA committee chairperson, described the factors that led to the decision, "We were really impressed." "The Lakota Language Consortium has done a great job with their documentation. Their materials have made it easier for community members to teach the language." "They work closely with many throughout the community and the praise of their efforts was truly amazing."
Wilhelm Meya, a co-founder of the group, has been working with Lakota language revitalization since 1994. He said, "we feel honored to be associated with the outstanding life and work of Ken Hale and will strive to have a measurable impact on Native American languages and continue in his exemplary tradition." He noted that, "the Ken Hale Prize is a welcome boost in an often difficult struggle balancing all the needs of a revitalization project"
Linguistic Director, Jan Ullrich, led the organization's materials development work. Ullrich pointed out that, "revitalizing a language is by no means an easy task and SSILA's support of these efforts plays an important role in helping to educate the public about the state of endangered languages and the needs of indigenous peoples."
Meya accepted the prize on behalf of the Board of Directors. In accepting the prize, Meya explained that, "the recognition of our work to revitalize Lakota will mean a great deal to the communities we serve, the teachers, and the numerous volunteers working to create the first generation of proficient Lakota speakers in fifty years."
The Lakota Language Consortium is made up of numerous committed community members and linguists. As one of the largest language revitalization organizations in the country, its materials are used by over twenty-two school systems and exposes over 4000 children to the Lakota language. Native American language loss is an enormous, though silent crisis and the LLC is at the forefront of producing effective language materials that help Native communities in their struggle to rebuild their languages.
Bunte, who is a professor at California State University, expressed the hope that the SSILA prize would enhance and contribute to prestige of the project. "This was something that really needed to be rewarded." "They really showed what Ken Hale stood for."