Nebraska Indian Community College, in a partnership with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) in Minnesota and three other tribal colleges combined efforts to develop a two year Dakota language training program, Voices of Our Ancestors. The Dakota language is one of our nations most endangered. In an effort to in-crease the number of Dakota speakers and teachers, Dakota speakers were encouraged to apply to become instructors, and interested adults age 18 or older were encouraged to apply to be students.

In August 2017, Voices of Our Ancestors began in five participating Dakota communities across several states. The pro-gram is entirely funded by the SMSC, which committed nearly $2 million toward its development and implementation. The program will train a total of 20 Native students across the five participating locations.

To fully immerse the trainees in the experience, the program will be held 40 hours per week over 24 months. Instructors and students will receive a stipend for their participation.

We need Dakota speakers and interested learners to stand with us in our effort to preserve, revitalize, and protect the Dakota language, said Jim Hallum, NICC Tribal Extension Project Director and Santee Sioux Nation Tribal Member. By taking these steps, we ensure that our culture, values, traditions, and way of life will continue to enrich our childrens lives and for the future generations to come.

The Voices of Our Ancestors curriculum will cover Dakota language, culture, and history. The program will also include educational opportunities for students to share their newly acquired language skills with their communities. All locations will have an open door policy, allowing other tribal members and students to sit in on classes for free.

In addition to Nebraska Indian Community College and the SMSC, the programs partners include three other tribal colleges: the Cankdeska Cikana Community College in North Dakota, Fort Peck Community College in Montana, and the Sisseton Wahpeton College in South Dakota.

About the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community:

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community is a federally recognized, sovereign Indian tribe located southwest of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Following a Dakota tradition of generosity, the SMSC is one of the top philanthropists in Minnesota and is the largest contributor to Native American tribes and causes across the country. It is a strong community partner and a leader in protecting and restoring natural re-sources. The SMSCs government, Gaming Enterprise, and various other enterprises are collectively the largest employer in Scott County.