Making History: Lakota Poetry at LSI

27939654565_0f23a9b5a0_zAt this year’s Lakota Summer Institute history was made with the first ever Lakota Poetry course, taught by Ben Black Bear and Lawrence Diggs.

While poetry as we know it today wasn’t prevalent in Lakota culture, many Lakota songs could be considered a form of poetry. The language itself is poetic and easily gives way to creating a new literary style.

The class explored different poetry styles in Lakota, all the while discovering new ways the language can be beautiful when we play with the sounds, nuanced meanings of words and unique Lakota expressions.


Additionally participants in the class worked on poetry reading and public speaking skills, including a focus on body language to help communicate their poetry. The class recorded to see how different every participant sounded to others in comparison to themselves.27939660025_5cc9567fb6_z


Courtney Yellow Fat, long-time LSI participant and now teacher, shared: “Ever since I was a young man I have been interested in poetry, because it gave me an outlet to express my feelings. Poetry isn’t a new thing to the Lakota people, we have always had poetic expressions in our stories and especially in our songs. […]”

We’ll be putting together an album of recordings from this class, so stay tuned! In the meanwhile, check out this video on our Facebook page – Lakota Poetry class participants reading a poem all together. We hope that many new, creative possibilities for language learning will emerge in the future as the Lakota Summer Institute continues to blossom.