Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


This study provides a background of the status of the Dakota language as it is spoken on the Spirit Lake Nation in northeast North Dakota. The study examined Dakota language fluency, environments where the language is used, and suggested strategies for revitalization. In order to determine the aforementioned, a brief Survey for Grant for Revitalization of Tribal Languages (Survey) was implemented. This assessment of community fluency and interest was essential to obtaining an Administration for Native Americans grant to develop a language revitalization effort that came to be known as the Dakota la UnspepHLanguage Preservation Program.

The Survey for Grant for Revitalization of Tribal Languages was developed from unstructured interviews with 30 members of the Spirit Lake Nation, ranging in age from 18-90. This led to a pilot survey which was tested on an informal committee of 19 people. The final Survey was administered to a representative sample of age groups ranging in age from under twelve to over fifty-five, with a total of 311 respondents. Both sexes were also adequately represented, an important factor as Dakota has male and female versions of the language. The data were analyzed with either Fisher’s exact test or a chi-square test.

The status of Dakota language on the Spirit Lake Nation would appear to be in Stage 7 of Fishman’s Graded Intergenerational Dislocation Scale, which implies that the language is not being transmitted in the home environment and the majority of the speakers are elderly. However, combining all age groups who answered the Survey, 71.7% are aware that the language is at risk and 85.5% want to “learn or improve or practice Dakota”, which bodes well for possible revitalization. Of the respondents to the Survey, 38.9% had some degree of familiarity with Dakota orthography. The introduction, by the Dakota la Unspepi!Language Preservation Program, of elders into Head Start has stimulated more Dakota language curriculum development, and a Dakota culture teacher is now teaching in the Head Start centers. Her work is currently being funded by the Spirit Lake Nation.