Dakota Language Program

Dakota language student

The land called Mnisota Makoce is home to the Dakota people. The Dakota language reflects that relationship and it is evident in the names of different places throughout the present-day state of Minnesota. The land, language, and way of life are all connected for the Dakota people and they cannot exist without each other. 

Due to federal policies of genocide and ethnic cleansing in the 19th and early 20th centuries that attempted to assimilate Dakota people into Euro-American ways of life, today there are only about five first-language speakers of Dakota who were born and raised in Minnesota Dakota communities. With only about 20 speakers from Dakota communities outside of the state, there are currently more second-language learners than first-language speakers of Dakota. 

The Dakota Language Program is a part of a movement throughout Dakota communities in the US and Canada to counteract language extinction by creating new fluent Dakota speakers and teachers. For more about Dakota language revitalization efforts, visit the Dakota Language Society website.

“Students who want to study Swedish have the choice to go to Sweden. But if you want to learn Dakota, you have to come to Dakota homelands. You have to come to Minnesota.” –Dakota Language Instructor C̣aƞte Máza Neil McKay

Scholarships and Outreach

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The Dakota Language Program offers a financial aid program for University of Minnesota degree-seeking undergraduates and nondegree-seeking continuing education students who demonstrate strong dedication to learning to speak and teach the Dakota language. Preference is given if you are of Dakota heritage, if you demonstrate financial need, and/or if you are a parent with children in a Dakota language immersion program.

Teacher-Student Practicum

Language practicum students earn college credits and a small stipend to assist a full-time Dakota language instructor within a Minneapolis Public School language classroom. The practicum provides you with teaching experience as well as the opportunity to improve your language skills.

The practicum also benefits community programs with much-needed classroom assistance and preparation for prospective employees. In recent years, students have served their practicum at Wicoie Nandagikendan Dakota and Ojibwe Immersion Program sites (Anishinabe Academy and Four Directions Family Center), as well as Bdote Learning Center, a K-3 Dakota and Ojibwe Immersion Program.

Dakota Teaching Certificate Program

We offer a certificate program for Dakota language instruction to help meet our community's need for native-language speakers:

In this program, you can develop a level of fluency in the language that prepares you to conduct your own immersion classroom (taught entirely in the language). We connect our language program to state teaching licensure programs and other institutions that need certified language teachers. Our close ties help provide our graduates with careers and attract prospective indigenous language speakers and teachers to our communities.