Jaidyn Probst is a proud member of the Dakota Native American tribe.

The great-granddaughter of fluent Dakota speakers has committed herself to learning the language of her people as well as the culture and heritage of the Dakota way of life.

Probst, the daughter of Jackie and Joe Probst, has spent her life in the area and has spent many hours learning from the elders and teachers of her people, and she has taken on her own leadership roles in school as well as in the community.

As a student, Probst has been an active member of the United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY), and this year she is serving as the group’s president.

“In UNITY we do different volunteer projects in the community,” said Probst, who is a junior at Redwood Valley High School, adding recently the group helped serve food during the Veterans Wacipi.

In her community, Probst serves as a member of the Lower Sioux Health and Human Services committee, which meets to talk about and implement programming that it hopes will lead people to live healthier lifestyles. That includes doing projects that encourage people to eat healthier and to become more active.

On a larger scale, Probst has also been selected to serve on a steering team at the state level for a Minnesota tribal youth gathering. Probst said she is one of a few Native American youth across the state who will be part of that committee, which will meet at the capitol in St. Paul and will interact with state leaders to help be the voice of Native youth.

In addition to being active in leadership, Probst has also committed to studying her Dakota culture, language and heritage, and she recently joined a new program that is teaching the Dakota language. Two days a week from 6-8 p.m. Probst joins other students at the Lower Sioux Agency Historic site to study the language, history and way of life of the Dakota.

“It’s not just about learning the language,” said Probst. “It’s all connected.”

Probst and other Dakota youth have also been participating in language bowl competitions, adding the local team has been doing pretty well considering they have not been at it very long. The team recently placed second at a competition at Prairie Island.

“We lost by one point to a team that has been studying the language for four years,” said Probst.

Probst said before she started intentionally studying the Dakota language she had been able to speak a few words and phrases, but through the class and the language bowl program she is learning a lot more.

Probst has also been able to express herself through art, and to help celebrate Native American Month in November, Probst painted the designs and the Cardinal logo that can be found on the teepee currently set up at Redwood Valley schools.

Probst said the designs, including the medicine wheel, symbolize the Dakota culture, adding she really enjoyed the chance to work on that project.

When she was young, Probst also celebrated her culture as a jingle dress dancer. All of it, Probst said, is intended to help her become more aware of who she is and to provide her with the information she needs to help educate others about what it means to be Native American.

Probst said she hopes to pursue a career in the medical field after graduating from high school, adding she would love to be able to attend a college that would also allow her to continue studying Dakota language.

Raising awareness of the Native American way of life and helping society move beyond the stereotypes that exist when it comes to her culture is very important to Probst.

Being Dakota is simply who Jaidyn Probst is, and she is committed to putting in the work to understanding what that means for herself, her community and everyone she meets.