Lakota Language Immersion Childcare

Lakota Immersion Childcare / Iyápi Glukínipi is a "language nest"-style daycare program that accepts children no later than their second birthday, in order start them learning Lakota from a pre-verbal age. Our program's official mission is to teach children on the Pine Ridge Reservation Lakota as a first language, in a nurturing and enriched childcare setting, as a basis for continued fluency throughout their lives, to be full participants in the revitalization of their heritage language. We opened our doors in November, 2012, and currently serve 20 children and their families. We are a program under Thunder Valley Community Development Organization, of which more can be found at

We are located in Oglala, South Dakota, and are the first full-immersion early childhood daycare in Lakota Country. We initially began with a cohort of five children under age two. The children from this initial group have now been in the program for three years, and have grown in leaps and bounds in their Lakota proficiency. In future years, our program will continue to expand upward as the initial cohort reaches elementary school age (starting in the fall of 2016), in order to include an elementary school curriculum, all in Lakota. The daycare component will be retained permanently, in order to prepare first-language Lakota speaking children for the immersion school. Our program also works with the parents of the enrolled children – none of whom are fluent speakers themselves (the average age of a fluent speaker is 68 years old) – in order to increase their proficiency so that they can support their children's language use in the home as well.

Check out our recent TEDx talk, about the amazing work our program is doing!:


August '15 Newsletter

Stories include:

LIC Publishes Five New Lakota Children's Books

Running and Biking Our Way to Healthy Living

Oglala Nation Parade

Read the full newsletter HERE.

July '15 Newsletter

LIC Receives Grant for Youth Program to Combat Suicide

Read the full newsletter HERE.

June '15 Newsletter

Stories include:

Running Like the Wind

Lakota Children's Fair

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May '15 Newsletter

Stories include:

Our Upcoming Lakota Language Children's Carnival

Daycare Building Gets New Coat of Paint

And Easter Party and a Surprise

Staff Members Attend Eagle Butte Training

Read the full newsletter HERE.

April '15 Newsletter

This edition is all about our new multimedia, online, and mobile initiatives!

Read it all HERE.

February/March '15 Newsletter

Stories include:

Lakota Immersion Childcare Receives New Playground

Childcare Administrators Travel to Santa Fe for Conference

Two New Staff Members Join LIC

Second Language Learner Program Hitting its Stride

Read the full newsletter HERE.

10/7/14 Update: Our Latest Newsletter

Stories include:

Families Team Up for Lakota!

Lakota Immersion Childcare Launches Adult Lakota Learner Initiative

October Means Tusweca Time!

Read the full newsletter HERE.

9/4/14 Update: September Newsletter

Read the full newsletter HERE.

9/1/14 Update: Our Biggest News Yet!

We got the ANA grant! The BIG one!! From our official press release:

Lakota Immersion Childcare (Iyápi Glukínipi), a language revitalization initiative based in Oglala, SD, recently received a sizable three-year grant from the Administration for Native Americans (ANA).

These funds were awarded through the exceedingly competitive Native American Language Preservation and Maintenance initiative (NALPM) which, in addition to supporting immersion endeavors, provides grants for curriculum development, teacher training, and technology used to disseminate and preserve Native American languages.

ANA awarded approximately $2.6 million in new NALPM grants for 2014, which were conferred on 13 recipient organizations. Lakota Immersion Childcare, which is receiving the funds via its fiscal sponsor, Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, is the only organization in the Dakotas to be awarded ANA language funds, and one of only three in the Great Plains area.

Lakota Immersion Childcare currently has a staff of five, including two administrators, and three fluent speakers who work with the children on a daily basis. Their enrollment is currently 15 children, and the program admits a new cohort of five toddlers between 18-24 months of age each fall. The ANA funds will enable the program to develop and expand over the next three years and beyond, according to their long term plan, which includes partnering with a local school to create a full-immersion elementary program.

ANA was established by the Native American Programs Act of 1974, and provides discretionary grant funding for community-based projects that result in social and economic benefits supporting healthy children, families and communities. The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs recently forwarded a bill to the full Senate that would reauthorize funding for Native Languages. SD Senator Tim Johnson was a co-sponsor of this bill.

In addition to providing grant funding, ANA works with federal partners in the Departments of Education and Interior to coordinate resources and support for Native American languages. These agencies recently hosted a Native American Language Summit in June that attracted nearly 300 participants from as far away as Guam and Alaska to discuss how the federal government can better support native languages.

“Time is of the essence for many of these communities who face dwindling numbers of first speakers. We want to invest in preservation and revitalization while Tribes and native communities still have access to these individuals who are fluent in their traditional languages,” says ANA Commissioner Lillian Sparks Robinson.  

Peter Hill, Lakota Immersion Childcare’s Language Coordinator, says the program staff and parents are overjoyed about receiving the grant. He remarked, “There is no other organization out there supporting indigenous language revitalization that has the potential to provide such a high level of funding for grassroots programs such as ours. We are over the moon about receiving an ANA award, and we will use these funds to develop our program into a flagship language immersion endeavor.”

8/14/14 Update: August Newsletter

Stories include:

Running to the Future

LIC Receives $8,000 Grant from Sacred Fire Foundation

LIC Founder Completes Fourth Year of Teaching at Lakota Summer Institute

Welcome Darlene Helper - Foster Grandparent

Read the full newsletter HERE.

8/5/14 Update: International Recognition

A red-letter day! We were notified this morning that our program has received a $20,000 grant from National Geographic's Genographic Project Legacy Fund. The fund awards grants on an annual basis for community-driven projects directly preserving or revitalizing indigenous or traditional culture. Grant awardees are located around the world, and Lakota Immersion Childcare was one of a small handful of programs located within the United States to be so recognized.

The Legacy Fund supports projects that are community-driven and deliver a positive, tangible, and timely benefit that is sustainable after grant funds have been expended. Projects must also show a strong level of local community involvement in their planning, governance, and implementation. Funded projects have included documenting traditional languages, oral histories, or ceremonies; creating culturally specific educational materials and programs; establishing local museums and archives; intergenerational knowledge sharing; and preserving significant sites and artifacts.

Our contribution from the Legacy Fund will be applied towards our soon-to-be launched project, the Tȟáŋkake Kiŋ Lakȟótiyapi Kte second-language learner teaching initiative. As our program has grown, we have been considering the problem faced by potential second-language learners of Lakota. There are many out there, but an exceedingly small handful have succeeded in learning the language to full fluency. Many find themselves trying to teach themselves Lakota without a good road map for learning, and quickly get frustrated.

These people - generally Lakota community members in their twenties and early thirties – would greatly benefit from the existence of a formal Lakota-learning program for highly motivated adults, and the absence of such a program poses a huge challenge for the future success of Lakota revitalization efforts. We are working on the creation of such a program that would be intertwined with our existing early childhood immersion, thus addressing two major programs at once.

Specifically, the Tȟáŋkake Kiŋ Lakȟótiyapi Kte initiative would work as follows: A few highly motivated second-language learners would join our program as full-time interns. They would observe and help out in the language nest and use Lakota to the extent of their ability during the busy hours of the morning. Then, during the downtime of the afternoon, there would be a block of intensive, structured language teaching for them. The whole process would exist not only to help them become fluent speakers, but also to groom them to be able to fill program positions in the future.

We are happy that funds from the National Geographic Genographic Project will help us launch this exciting new initiative, which we have had in the works for over a year now. Lé uŋ etáŋhaŋ líla iyókiphiya uŋk’úŋpe ló!!

7/1/14 Update: 2 Foundational Grants

Lakota Immersion Childcare recently received grants from two different organizations: the Lannan Foundation ($30,000) and the Sacred Fire Foundation ($8,000). Lannan Foundation is a family foundation dedicated to cultural freedom, diversity and creativity through projects which support exceptional contemporary artists and writers, as well as inspired Native activists in rural indigenous communities. Sacred Fire Foundation is a charitable organization, supporting initiatives that preserve and promote Ancient Wisdom traditions – and their perspectives – to insure their continuance for our children and future generations. Through events and media, the foundation seeks to bring a greater awareness and understanding to our modern culture of the irreplaceable benefit that Ancient Wisdom provides the people of the world.

Funds from these donors will be applied towards our latest initiative, the Language Nest Curriculum Project. At the moment, there is no Lakota language immersion curriculum in existence, and we will need such a body of material for when our daycare children reach school age. There are some Lakota curriculum materials that have created, but they are limited, and exist to teach English-speaking children as a second language, which is a very different process from immersion education. We are currently working to gather various age-appropriate curriculum resources and vetting them to see which would be the most useable, as well as the most translatable. Ultimately, we intend to have a full, subject-based elementary school curriculum, all in Lakota. This will be the first of its kind, and it will be available to any other local immersion programs that start up in the future.

We at Lakota Immersion Childcare say wóphila tȟáŋka two these two generous contributing organizations for supporting our mission and for believing in our work!

1/28/14 Update: A Challenge Grant

An anonymous donor has gifted $40,000 to Iyápi Glukínipi! Furthermore, this individual has set a challenge amount of $20,000. Once we raise that amount from one or more other sources during the 2014 calendar year, s/he has pledged to give us an additional $20,000 contribution! Here at the language nest, we are extremely grateful about this incredibly generous gift, and we are working hard to raise the challenge amount. Thank you to all who donate to our program, as all donations will go toward meeting this goal.

Check Out Our Program Being Featured

on KOTA TV's "Children First" Segment!:

11/23 Update: Another Move and a New Start

It has been a busy couple of months for our program! In early October, after a record-setting blizzard was followed by days of heavy rain, the over-saturated ground decided it couldn't handle the septic system of the building we were using and flooded up through the drainage system into the building. This led to the carpets and flooring having to be torn up and replaced, as well as over $1,000 worth of damage. The destruction essentially made the building uninhabitable for our program, and as a result, we found ourselves suddenly "homeless".

But the cloud had a silver lining. After moving the entire surviving contents of our program from outside the flooded building, pickup load by pickup load, to the program director's garage, we found a new building significantly bigger than our previous location. The building belongs to prominent community elder Leonard Little Finger, and his organization, Lakota Circle Village / Cangleska Wakan Owayawa. The building was built 7 years ago with the intention of housing a language immersion program for children, so it is a serendipitous win-win situation. Leonard had the building we suddenly needed, and we had the program that he had always wanted. We feel truly blessed!

So now, after a bump in the road, we are moved in, and back up and running. Our CrowdRise fundraising campaign (, is closing in on $5,000, and we would love your additional support to help us keep our doors open. As we were reminded of this past month, expenses cannot always be anticipated ahead of time! And of course, feel free to forward that link to others you think might want to support us, post it to Facebook, tweet it out, etc.

Finally, please "like" our Facebook page: We would like to reach 500 likes and then some! Happy Thankgiving, and best wishes from Lakota Immersion Childcare.

Aŋpétu wašté waŋží yuhá po!

8/12 Update: Looking Ahead to Year 2

Well, it has been a good, sometimes hot, and very productive summer for our program. Our new location 6 miles west of Pine Ridge has been even better than expected (and we had high expectations!). Having Steve on board (and Matt running the show) has enabled things to go more smoothly than ever. And we have been the beneficiaries of some very generous gifts of late, from donors including the Densford Fund of the Riverside Church in New York City, and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians in California. Líla philáuŋyayaŋpe ló!

At the moment, we are looking to expand our program as originally planned. We have already brought on our sixth and seventh children, and hope to expand to a full roster of 10 by the end of October. Parents interested in potentially enrolling their children should contact Peter or Matt at or With our first year nearly under our belts, we couldn't be more grateful for all of the support we have received, or more excited about what lies ahead!

And remember, you can see photos of the program and our awesome kids, as well as get more frequent updates on our Facebook page:

6/5 Update: Steven Slow Bear Joins Program

All of us here at the language nest are extremely please to welcome Steve Slow Bear to Iyápi Glukínipi as a full-time caregiver. Steve brings the necessary Lakota fluency, hard work ethic, and love of working with children that the job demands. We have searched high and low to find the right individual for this position, and we are confident that we have found such a person in Steve!

5/15 Update: New Program Director Hired

Iyápi Glukínipi is please to announce that the Advisory Board has approved the hire of Matt Rama to the position of Program Director, effective June 3. In addition to the many skills that he brings to the table, Matt is an eager adult learner of Lakota, and is driven by a passion for the language, and a desire to pass it on to his own Lakota children. This immersion daycare was largely Matt's idea in the first place, and the program is happy to welcome him on board as a full-time administrator!

2/8 Update: Our Largest Gift So Far!

Lakota Immersion Childcare is thrilled to announce that it was awarded a $20,000 discretionary grant from the a California foundation. Words cannot express our gratitude for this extremely generous gesture! We thank this foundation (who wish to remain anonymous) for believing in our program and our mission. Wóphila tȟáŋka!!

1/1/13 Update: Happy New Year!

Best wishes to all of our friends for a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2013. We would especially like to thank Winona LaDuke's Honor the Earth foundation, who last week awarded us a $4,000 "Building Resilience" grant, and the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Philadelphia for donating half of their Christmas Day offertory collection to our program! Wophila yelo!

12/10 Update: Up and Running!

We have been going for a few weeks now, and are off to a good start! You can see photos of the program and our awesome kids, as well as get more frequent updates on our FB page:

Update: Childcare to begin in early November!

Our online fundraising campaign was successful enough that we have the means to get our venture underway. We are currently in the process of enrolling our first cohort of children for the program, and looking for a second full-time fluent caregiver. Check back for more updates!

Also, as the funds we have raised are the bare minimum needed to sustain us for the first six months, we could still very much use DONATIONS to help keep our endeavor running in the long term. If you are interested in contributing, click HERE. Thank you!!

A Language on the Brink

  • There are currently fewer than 5,000 Lakota speakers in existence, representing less than 12% of the Lakota population of North and South Dakota.
  • The average age of a Lakota speaker is 68 years old - significantly older than the average reservation life expectancy.
  • There are almost no fluent speakers of the language below the age of forty.

Language Immersion Success

Language immersion has become the watchword among those who are working towards language revitalization. And indeed, immersion programs have had impressive degrees of success among indigenous languages in areas such as Hawaii, New Zealand, Minnesota and among the Piegan (Blackfeet) of Montana. These efforts are well documented in print and audiovisual materials. Unfortunately, Lakota Country has yet to produce a truly successful language immersion program, although many attempts have been launched. We believe that we have the knowledge and skills to succeed in this area and eventually become a model program for other such local endeavors.