Berenstain Bears to Speak Lakota
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Condensed by Native Village

Mat Waŋila Thiwhe
The Compassionate (Generous, Kind) Bear Family

South Dakota: Protecting Native languages is critical to protecting Native cultures. Many groups are striving to save tribal languages which almost disappeared after European invasion. 

One such group is The Lakota Language Consortium. The LLC plans to dub 20 episodes of the Berenstain Bears into the Lakota Language. The series will be called "Mat Waŋila Thiwhe"-- The Compassionate (Generous, Kind) Bear Family.

This project supports one of the LLC's vision statements:  to provide every Lakota child with the means to become a speaker of Lakota as a first language within the home.

Ben Black Bear supplies the voice of Papa Bear. Ben is an LLC board member and Rosebud Sioux Tribe member. He grew up speaking Lakota before he learned English.

I didnt realize that more and more people are losing the language and less and less people are speaking it, he said.  If they can use it at home in ordinary situations, thats whats going to keep the language alive.

Wilhelm Meya is executive director of LLC. He says, [the Lakota language] is one of the few languages left in the U.S. that have a chance of making it, so we consider it to be sort of a linguistic treasure. Meya says that a younger audience is being targeted because the average age of all Lakota speakers is 60.

The Mat Waŋila Thiwhe project also features important qualities in the Lakota culture. These include compassion, patience, generosity, hospitality, and respect.

in July, 2010, 13 Lakota speakers recorded the adventures of the bear family.  The Mat Waŋila Thiwhe teacher's guide will be available this summer, and the episodes will air on South Dakota Public Television this fall.