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Culture and Language

Running Strong helps Indian Nations preserve their traditional language and culture for future generations.

Culture and Language Preservation

All over the United States, American Indian communities are struggling to keep their traditional languages and cultures alive.  Linguists estimate that when Europeans first came to this continent, more than 300 Native American languages were spoken in North America.  Today, there are only about 100.  Running Strong seeks to prevent any further linguistic or cultural loss.  We support initiatives to preserve knowledge passed down from a disappearing generation of elders and to teach this knowledge to the next generation of American Indian youth.  By partnering with groups that have culturally based programs such as schools, cultural societies, traditional youth camps, and museums, we are helping to save and share tribal cultures.

Learn more about our culture and language programs here.

Spotlighted Programs

  • Euchee (Yuchi) Language Project

    Location

    Sapulpa, Oklahoma

    Tribe

    Yuchi Tribe

    Language Preservation

    The Euchee (Yuchi) are a small band of American Indians originally from the Southeast region of Georgia.  When they were forcibly removed to Sapulpa, Oklahoma, the federal government placed them under the Muskogee Creek Nation.  Though they are separated from their homeland, they have maintained their cultural ways and continue to practice their traditions. The Euchee (Yuchi) Language Project is one illustration of this, as it their method for preserving the tribal language, an integral part of their identity. 

    Euchee is an incredibly unique language.  Experts consider it an isolated language, meaning it did not derive from any other language or cultural group.  Beginning with approximately ten fluent speakers, local Euchee tribal members formed the Euchee (Yuchi) Language Project in efforts to preserve the language and pass it on to their children.  The project has produced recordings of elders speaking the language, archived words in writing and created different types of teaching materials.  In efforts to teach the language, they facilitate children's immersion programs, master-apprentince teams, and language camps.  Fluent elders hold classes on a daily basis to share the language breath-to-breath.  

    When Euchee children are able to praise their ancestors in the traditional tongue, the future is looking brighter.

  • Brave Heart Society

    Location

    Lake Andes, South Dakota

    Tribe

    Dakota, Lakota & Nakota

    Brave Heart Society

    The Brave Heart Society on the Yankton Reservation in Lake Andes, South Dakota, offers cultural programs for Nakota, Dakota and Lakota Sioux women and girls, designed to revive their cultural traditions.

    For 20 years, the Brave Heart grandmothers have been focused on the mission of “calling home the spirit of the culture.”  Running Strong for American Indian Youth® has been partnering with the Brave Heart Society since 1996 and is proud to support the programs it operates.

    Isnati Awica Dowanpi: One of the Brave Heart Society’s greatest accomplishments has been the reintroduction of the once forbidden and nearly lost Isnati Awica Dowanpi (Coming of Age) ceremony for girls. As one of the seven sacred rites of the Lakota, the purpose of Isnati is to teach young women to respect themselves, and educate them about their roles and their bodies as developing women through the instruction of elder women.

    Nagi Kicopi: For those who have suffered the traumas of abuse and addition, Brave Heart’s Nagi Kicopi (Calling Back the Spirit) healing retreat, led by founding grandmother Faith Spotted Eagle, focuses on healing through the rediscovery of cultural identity.

    Cante Waste Woju: The Brave Heart Society operates a 3-acre community garden, tended primarily by youth, which produces a wide variety of vegetables that are distributed to elders and families on the Yankton Reservation.

    Waterlilly Storytelling Institute: For generations, the rich cultural knowledge of the Dakota people was passed down from parents to children, grandparents to grandchildren. Each year, at Brave Heart’s annual Waterlilly Storytelling Institute, more than 1,000 participants hear traditional stories told to them firsthand by Native storytellers at local school assemblies during a four-day period.

    Dakota Language Nest: The Dakota words and phrases children learn at the Brave Heart Society’s Dakota Language Nest are likely among the first words children learn in their native language. The weekly language lessons are referred to as a “language nest” because symbolically, a nest is when a mother bird constructs it piece by piece so that young birds become strong.

  • Women in the First Environment Collaborative

    Location

    Akwesasne, NY & Washington, DC

    Tribe

    Akwesasne Mohawk

    woman is the first environment

    Women is the First Environment Collaborative, founded by Katsi Cook (Akwesasne Mohawk), seeks to advance the reproductive justice agendas of American Indian women towards an expanded and revitalized reproductive justice movement.

    From puberty into the childbearing years; into menopause and elder-hood, there is a need to incorporate and integrate biomedical knowledge, indigenous knowledge, ideas and practices (the “traditional”) in developing resources for community education, training and research.

    Building from an empowerment model based in cultural survival, Women is the First Environment Collaborative aims to include a new generation of young American Indian women at risk who are most in need of ties to positive models in community culture.

  • Little White Buffalo Project

    Location

    South Dakota and Nebraska

    Tribe

    Lakota

    The Little White Buffalo project is a Lakota language project. The project works with Lakota elders and uses language immersion to teach Lakota people their Native language, in South Dakota and Nebraska.

    There are few Lakota language programs outside of short-term programs in schools, and the Little White Buffalo project seeks to fill some of the gaps, and teach people of all ages.

    The project also utilizes Rosalie Little Thunder’s cultural mapping techniques to teach cultural values through language, and help people understand why Lakota language preservation is important for the community.


More Programs View All

  • Clean Water

    Running Strong is working to connect running water to families without in Pine Ridge.

  • Emergency Assistance Programs

    Running Strong's emergency assistance programs help American Indian families in the face of severe weather, providing heat and other utilities.

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