Recording And Preserving The Dakota Language
The Bismarck Tribune
By JEAN HOPFENSPERGER
WELCH, Minn. - Dakota language teacher Wayne Wells pulled a chair next to tribal elder Curtis Campbell, who had settled into his favorite living room rocker to begin an unusual recording session.
Wells clutched a gray metal box called a "phraselator," an electronic interpreter first introduced in Iraq and Afghanistan for use by U.S. soldiers at military checkpoints and security zones. He handed a microphone to Campbell, and asked him to repeat - in Dakota - decidedly civilian phrases such as "I want some coffee."
Campbell responded, "Pezutasapa mak'u wo." And the words were added to a databank of hundreds of phrases and sentences stored in the device. Word by word, the effort is helping students at Prairie Island Indian Community preserve their fragile native language.
"There's only about two or three people here who speak Dakota fluently, so time is of the essence," said Wells, the language teacher at the community outside of Red Wing, Minn. "If the kids don't learn it now, there won't be anyone left who knows it."
Last year, the Prairie Island Community became one of more than 50 Indian communities nationwide to integrate phraselators into their arsenal of language preservation tools. The hand-held device resembles a small computer, with a monitor showing tabs for "weather," "family," "animals" and "Dakota virtues and values," among other subjects.
The phraselators aren't cheap: The cost of purchasing three of them, plus installing the software, and receiving training and technical support, was about $25,000, said Alan Childs, treasurer for the Prairie Island tribal council.
But the devices can be used for more than just basic translation, he said. They can also preserve traditional Dakota songs and stories, said Childs, who is a singer in the community.
Over the years, there have been other attempts to preserve the Dakota language, which now only has about 100 fluent speakers in four Indian communities in Minnesota, Childs said. It's still too soon to tell whether the phraselators are going to make a breakthrough, he said.
But a combination of a fancy high-tech tool and a dedicated teacher from the tribe could start making a difference, he said. "You start building the wheel," Childs said, "and eventually it will start turning."
Devils Lake Outlet Moving Water Again - But For How Long?
The Bismarck Tribune
DEVILS LAKE (AP) - The Devils Lake outlet is moving water again after repairs to a vandalized valve. The likelihood that it will have to be shut down again increases as the summer wears on, though not because of equipment problems, a state water official says.
The outlet was restarted Tuesday, after almost two weeks of repairs to fix a crack in its intake structure and the vandalism to the valve, Assistant State Engineer Todd Sando said Wednesday.
A state Health Department permit that governs the operation of the floodwater diversion project puts limits on how much the outlet can increase the sulfate level in the Sheyenne River.
Sulfates are minerals that occur naturally in soils and groundwater. High sulfate levels can give water a bitter taste and act as a laxative for people who drink it.
Sando said weather conditions in later summer, while boosting evaporation off the lake, also might lead to higher sulfate levels in the Sheyenne.
"The stream flows deteriorate and water quality kind of follows the same trend as the summer moves along," he said. "It gets hotter and gets less precipitation ... so our expectations aren't that great for later in the summer."
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