Through this project, I am documenting the cultural and communicative competence of today’s Lakota elders. Audio and video recordings and writings of Lakota elders not only serve local efforts to perpetuate Lakota values through planned instruction, but also provide a wealth of material for understanding local discourses as they intersect with educational matters. In this regard, the bulk of my work has involved collaboration with a late Lakota elder, a man who was a traditional community leader and former Lakota culture and language teacher. Together we created a resource archive of print and digital media materials that demonstrate his wide-ranging and rich cultural competence, especially his vast repertoire of communicative ability. The collection amounts to an indigenous critique of the formalized educational system for Native Americans, a significant perspective standing in striking contrast to current policy and practice.
More recently I have begun collaboration with other Lakota elders to provide a digital archive of radio shows they have done on KILI, the tribal radio station on Pine Ridge Reservation. The archive will involve translating the shows from Lakota to English, revealing how the Lakota conceive of and are experiencing the endangerment and prospective revitalization of Lakota. It will also advance my research on language endangerment and revitalization by allowing me to comprehend the form-function-meaning interrelationships of the elders’ language-culture talk – as they understand it. The translations will also provide the non-Lakota-speaking members of the Lakota community (85%) with greater access to the wisdom of their elders, as I will make the translations available to all tribal members through the archives at Oglala Lakota College. The translations will thus enable greater access to the esoteric traditional knowledge that Lakota elders posses and express through their fluent use of Lakota.