Tom Beauchamp, LLC’s communications assistant caught up with Karen Little Wounded, LLC’s new Education Coordinator via email for an interview on the latest news in Lakota language education. Karen has been very busy giving pre-tests to dozens of schools on Lakota Levels 1 & 2
We asked Karen if she would show us what it’s like to be our education coordinator at such an interesting and busy time. Luckily, she agreed! Karen has a keen eye and easily illustrates what’s going on during the testing of proficiency in Lakota with interesting detail and insight.
“It was a very interesting process visiting all the different types of schools, a lot of variables and a few similarities, the most important, however, is the teaching of the Lakota language.”
--Karen Little Wounded, Education Coordinator, Lakota Language Consortium
TB: What’s going on: what’s the testing cycle; what’s happened; what’s happening now and where does it all end?
KLW: During the school year, the participating schools are pretested and post-tested on their knowledge and use of Lakota language. The pretesting is conducted during the fall months and the post-testing is conducted during the spring months.
It is a free service offered to the schools and the outcome consists of comparative data analysis of class and school averages. In addition, an assessment of observations in methods, classrooms, instructors, technology, curriculum and other available resources are given to each participating school. The data will determine an increase or decrease in knowledge or use of the Lakota language by reviewing the same data from school year to school year. The testing began on the Standing Rock Sioux
Reservation, the Cheyenne River Sioux
Reservation, the Oglala Sioux Reservation and a visit to one school on the Rosebud
Sioux Reservation. There were twenty-three schools participating in the Level 1 Pre-Testing. There were thirty-four schools participating in the Level 2 Pre-Testing. The Level 2 Pre-Testing Results were exported, reviewed, formulated into data charts for the schools to review during the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota Language Summit in Rapid City, South Dakota. The Level 1 Pre-Testing Results are completed and are currently in the process of preparation for distribution to the participating schools. The scores were grade appropriate with considerations of availability of curriculum or other resources, how long the curriculum had been in existence at each school, instructors and allowed time for teaching the language. It was interesting to note that even though the student might not have had extensive learning of the language, the majority of the students made a connection to the pretest and had a score, they were able to recognize words and match them to a picture.
TB: What do the teachers and students think? Are there any good stories to share?
KLW: There were numerous variances within each school besides the obvious, the type of school whether it was BIA, Tribal, Public or Parochial, there were the number of instructors, some had their own classrooms, some traveled from classroom to classroom, some had adequate curriculum resources and some are in need of curriculum resources. Methods were different, some taught the female and male students separately, some integrated the language into the regular subjects such as history, math, science, the amount of time spend teaching the language varied. Some instructors had teacher training and some are yet to be trained in the curriculum instruction. A few schools had use of excellent technology and a few schools use outdated technology. No matter what school was being screened, the reaction of the students was the same. The excitement of hearing the Lakota word and matching the word to the appropriate picture was always the initial response. They would laugh, repeat the word but continue on and at the end would ask each other, what did you get? Most times, the students would ask, can we take it again?
The interest or passion for learning their native language is in the students and should be taken advantage of. More instruction time, more instructors and the more they are immersed in the language curriculum and resources better results will be achieved meaning fluent speakers. It was an educational and enriching experience traveling from reservation to reservation, from school to school, meeting committed individuals not only to education but to the teaching of the Lakota language. I look forward to returning to each and every school and improved scores and averages.
TB: Who does the testing benefit and why is the testing important?
KLW: The testing benefits the students who are the primary target for teaching the language. In turn, the schools will benefit as this screening tool can provide an insight on how they can best teach the students their native language. The respective tribes will then benefit through revitalization and preservation of the Lakota language and the future of each nation. This is why the testing is important, through this free service, a screening tool for schools to use as they see fit to design, redesign or improve their efforts in teaching the language is offered.
Meet Karen Little Wounded
The position of Education Coordinator is the type of job opportunity I was seeking which is interesting, educational, opportunity to travel and meet new people and, most importantly, an opportunity to be involved in the preservation and revitalization of our beautiful language.
I am from the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation and reside in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, although, my hometown is Dupree. I received my Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Management and, currently working on my Master’s Degree in Lakota Leadership and Management through the Oglala Lakota College.
It was an honor to visit these schools, to observe their level of commitment, not only to education but to the teaching of the Lakota language. It is my goal to assist the schools in achieving their level of proficiency in the Lakota language by providing the opportunity to acquire our curriculum and other resources, training and positive support.