The C̣aƞṡayapi Waḳaƞyeża Owayawa Oṭi – The Lower Sioux Early Head Start and Head Start is the first Dakota Head Start in the State of Minnesota and the only Early Head Start start-up in the nation this past year.

What does that mean?

Why is it the first and what about it makes it special or extraordinary?

It’s the Daḳota Oyate, the Dakota people. It’s the Iapi, the language. This isn’t the first time Daḳota people have made history and it is not the last time, but we hear the words, “first” and “revitalizing” a lot.

We know in the past that our language, culture and ourselves were illegal. Force and genocide were used to ensure these laws were being followed. If we know that, then we also must acknowledge that our language, culture and ourselves survived and are here today to flourish our people.

We have always done just that, Waṡaguƞkic’iyapi, made ourselves stronger. It was in 1978 that our ceremonial ways were allowed by law to be practiced with the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. That wasn’t too long ago historically.

We have readers today who can remember that year. On the Lower Sioux, we had people bring the first wiwaƞg wac̣i and first inipi back to the people to revitalize our ways of life.

By the time I was born, I was fortunate enough to never have to know how it feels without these ceremonies, because of the generations before me knew the importance of me learning and reclaiming my self-identity.

Waṡaguƞḳic’iyapi, we made ourselves stronger. Now, it’s time for me and others to continue on to help the next generations after me by learning the Daḳota language, teaching it and helping the community with this new school they made to raise the next generation of Daḳota Language speakers.

It is not a new concept to help revitalize and help our people grow. We have always done so. It is merely our turn to grow the people like they grew us.

In reality, every day I see these waḳaƞyeża, these sacred little ones, they are growing us to be stronger to continue. They are so prideful in being Daḳota, and they are prideful speaking their language.

I know they will be growing the people everyday they walk on this earth, because that is what we as Daḳota people do. We are resilient, and we flourish our people. Waṡaguƞkic’iyapi, we make ourselves stronger. I invite you all to come over and learn about us and to learn our language.

– Vanessa Goodthunder is the director of Cansayapi Wakanyeza Owayawa Oti- Early Head Start and Preschool