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MN School Helps Revival of Native American Languages

PHOTO: The Bdote Learning Center is immersing students in the Dakota and Ojibwe languages, so they don't disappear as other Native American languages have. Photo courtesy of Bdote Learning Center.
PHOTO: The Bdote Learning Center is immersing students in the Dakota and Ojibwe languages, so they don't disappear as other Native American languages have. Photo courtesy of Bdote Learning Center.
October 1, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS - As the number of speakers fluent in Native American languages continues to fade, a Minnesota school like few others in this nation is helping to keep those languages alive.

The Bdote Learning Center in Minneapolis is a year-round charter school where the students are immersed in either Dakota or Ojibwe. Interim Director Mike Huerth said it's an incredibly important time for both.

"My sons live on a reservation that has lost its language," he said. "There are no more speakers alive in that tribe - and it's a very sad thing, because once a language dies, it doesn't come back."

The students at Bdote wear uniforms. While there were concerns that the policy could reflect on the dark past of boarding schools and American Indian education, board member Laura Waterman Wittstock said it's been a surprising success.

"These little guys were very proud of the fact that they had matching T-shirts to wear, and that this was a kind of belonging," she said. "It just goes to show how much the community is putting its arms around this school."

The Bdote Learning Center opened this fall with students in kindergarten through third grade. Plans are to add one grade each year until it's a full K-through-12 school.

More information is onlne at bdotelearningcenter.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN