I am learning Dakota because it’s the language of Minnesota.

Cassandra Meyer

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Wicoie Nandagikendan: Dakota-Ojibwe Language Immersion Preschools

Minneapolis, Minnesota

imgThe Wicoie Nandagikendan Early Childhood Urban Immersion Project where Cassandra Meyer teaches operates four preschool classrooms in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis, which is known to be an enclave for tribal families. Each school day, these classrooms offer three hours of language immersion instruction for toddlers beginning at age two. It is the only program of its kind in the United States, despite an increasingly urbanized and off-reservation Native American population. In 2008, 60 % of American Indians and Alaska Natives lived in metropolitan areas. Roughly 6,500 Native Americans live in Minneapolis, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

Wicoie Nandagikendan partners with several existing programs, including the University of Minnesota’s American Indian Studies Department, where fluent speakers give college-level instruction in both the Dakota and Ojibwe languages. The University also offers a Dakota and Ojibwe Immersion Teacher Certificate program that has trained the majority of Wicoie Nandagikendan’s teachers, and provides apprentice immersion teachers who are paired with first-language Native speakers during their academic practicum. The school was founded in 2006 and is housed by an umbrella organization called The Alliance of Early Childhood Professionals.

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Did You Know ...

Minnesota’s Dakota communities include Shakopee Mdewakanton, Prairie Island, Lower Sioux, and Upper Sioux. There are now only five first-language Dakota speakers throughout Minnesota.

An 1851 treaty that established a permanent Dakota homeland, or reservation, was abrogated after an 1862 conflict between American immigrants and Dakota people. Today’s Dakota communities reside on a tiny fraction of the original tribal land base, and many now live in the Minneapolis metropolitan area.

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