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Project Update: Dakota Immersion Preschool at Pezihutazizi.

Johnston, Bill and Mike Greco

Of the roughly 6,000 languages currently spoken throughout the world, linguists estimate that more than half could be lost during the next century. Particularly at risk are languages spoken only in small indigenous communities. One such language in Minnesota is the Dakota language which, like almost all other Native American Indian languages in the United States, is in imminent danger of being supplanted by English. At Pezihutazizi (Upper Sioux Community), a Dakota reservation situated in southwestern Minnesota near the small town of Granite Falls, the number of Dakota speakers had dwindled to no more than 20 by the late 1990s. Recognizing the threat posed to Dakota culture by the loss of its native language, the tribal council established an immersion education program on the reservation as one component of a language preservation effort. Although there were many successful elements to the program, it ultimately proved difficult to sustain, and by the end of the first year, struggles over control of the immersion program led to its demise. The failure of the program points to several potential difficulties with the immersion approach that other practitioners might learn from.

CURA Reporter
Publication date: 
Minneapolis: Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, University of Minnesota.
Supported by the Federal Administration for Native Americans and a grant from the CURA Faculty Interactive Research Program.
33 (3): 8-9.
Online availability
Download from CURA: 
CURA call number: 
Reporter 33 (3)