Native Village
Youth and Education news
Volume 2 October, 2011

Translated Cartoon Series Marks Comeback of Lakota Language

Condensed by Native Village

North Dakota: The Lakota language is already taught in many tribal schools, but getting it back into popular, everyday use is a challenge. The Berenstain Bears may help this happen. They are now speaking the ancient language of the Lakota people.

A Lakota-language series called Mat?ó Waú?šila Thiwáhe (“The Compassionate Bear Family”) premiered last month on South Dakota Public Broadcasting and Prairie Public Television. The 20-episode series runs through November.

The Mat?ó Waú?šila Thiwáhe translation project is co-produced by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Lakota Language Consortium, a group of tribal members working to preserve and revitalize the Lakota language.

The Berenstain Bears were selected for translation because their gentle values fit traditional Lakota family values.

 “These characters treat each other with respect and kindness, which are traditional Lakota values, and to have them speaking Lakota to each other at home sets a good example,” said Charles W. Murphy, Standing Rock Tribal Chairman

Mat?ó Waú?šila Thiwáhe's TV premiere coincided with September's huge United Tribes International Powwow in Bismark.  During the three-day powwow, the Bears were everywhere:

The live costumed characters were honored as “dignitaries” in the Powwow’s Grand Entry;

The voice actors, all fluent Lakota speakers, joined the
costumed characters on a parade float through Bismarck;

Both the costumed and voice characters met the children on Youth Day; 

A special Mat?ó Waú?šila Thiwáhe screening was presented at the Tribal Leaders’ Summit meeting;

A big display booth kept the premiere episodes running on a continuous loop.

Native and non-native children sat in the booth’s chairs watching the cartoons over and over.  Adults exclaimed over the Bears’ family adventures shared in a language that, for many, was brand-new or nearly forgotten.

“I’ve spoken Lakota all my life, and I never thought I’d live to see a cartoon series in the language,” said a man in his 30s.  “I wish my grandfather was alive to see this.”

Getting the Mat?ó Waú?šila Thiwáhe series seen beyond the Plains states should be no problem. 

Both SDPB and Prairie Public will direct their online communities to  for episode downloads. 

A DVD set will become available for sale in November, with a guide to each episode included.

Mat?ó-Waú?šila-Thiwáhe is also on Facebook.

On the Berenstain Bears’ own Facebook page, creator Mike Berenstain says, “We are delighted to be part of this wonderful project, which the Lakota has undertaken to preserve their native language.”

Stories about the Lakota-speaking Berenstain Bears series premiere have appeared in TIME NewsFeed, Business Week, the Washington Post, Rachel Maddow’s Best Noon Thing blog, and other national and regional media outlets.

Native Village Home Page

Backgrounds: Robert Kaufman Fabrics:

NATIVE VILLAGE website was created for youth, educators, families, and friends who wish to celebrate the rich, diverse cultures of The Americas' First Peoples. We offer readers two monthly publications: NATIVE VILLAGE Youth and Education News and NATIVE VILLAGE Opportunities and Websites.  Each issue shares today's happenings in Indian country.
Native Village is responsible for format changes.
Articles may also include additional photos, art, and graphics which enhance the visual appeal and and adds new dimensions to the articles. Each is free or credited by right-clicking the picture, a page posting, or appears with the original article. 
Our hopes are to make the news as informative, educational, enjoyable as possible.
NATIVE VILLAGE also houses website libraries and learning circles  to enrich all lives on Turtle Island.
Please visit, and sign up for our update: