Ihanktonwan Dakota

State of Health

Historically there are four dialects of the language that have been spoken in the Province:

Isañåi - is the Daíoþa (Dakota) dialect spoken by the Mdewaíañtoñwañ, Waüöeíuþe, Waíöetoñwañ. This also was the original dialect of the Sissitoñwañ who have taken on words and nuances from the Ihañktoñwan dialect.

Ihañktoñwañ – is the original Nakota dialect spoken by the Ihañktoñwañ and Ihañktoñwañna. In the passage of time, sub-dialects have evolved and the original dialect has taken on Dakota words and nuances. Ihañktoñwañ speakers, today, refer to themselves as being Daíoþa (Dakota) speakers.

Hohe – is an Ihañktoñwañ sub-dialect that evolved in the late historic period. The speakers refer to themselves as being Naíoda (Nakota) speakers. This dialect is often referred to as Assiniboine. The dialect is however distinctly different from the Iñyañ Üe Ihanktoñwañ sub-dialect spoken in Morley, Alberta.

Åitoñwañ – is the Laíoþa (Lakota) dialect.

The present day Dakota/Nakota/Lakota Bands in Saskatchewan each have their own unique community dialect, stemming from one or more of the four historic dialects. Given their minority status, today, among First Nations in Saskatchewan, their geographic isolation from one another, and the effects of colonialism, their language is currently in an extremely critical state.

Their statistics, according to community sources are as follows:

Total Dakota membership: 1,557
Total Isanti and Ihanktonwan speakers (ranging from fluent to limited fluency): 34
Percentage of speakers: 2%

Total Nakota membership: 3,492
Total Hohe speakers (ranging from fluent to limited fluency): 34
Percentage of speakers: .9%

Total Lakota membership: 196
Total Titonwan speakers (ranging from fluent to limited fluency): 2
Percentage of speakers: 1%

Total Dakota/Nakota/Lakota membership: 5,248
Total speakers (ranging from fluent to limited fluency): 70
Percentage of speakers: 1%

The figures are based on the membership, on and off reserve, of the eight Dakota/Nakota/Lakota Bands and do not include the small number of other Dakota/Nakota/Lakota speakers who reside in the Province. A small but undetermined number of Nakota retained membership with the White Bear Band after reestablishment of Ocean Man and Pheasant Rump Bands. There are a small number of Dakota/Nakota/Lakota speakers from Manitoba, Alberta and the United States who have married into other Saskatchewan Bands or are employed in the Province. Also, annually there are a few who come from Manitoba and Alberta to attend university. It is estimated that the total number of other Dakota/Nakota/Lakota speakers is about 10.

These statistics reflect community members’ knowledge as to who speaks the language and includes anyone who can carry on some level of conversation, fluently or semi-fluently. The communities contend that the statistical sources used by AFN and RCAP do not reflect Saskatchewan realities. Further, they question the validity of the AFN and RCAP sources. The main source used is taken from a 1990 House of Commons report "You Took My Talk: Aboriginal Literacy and Empowerment" which states:

Linguistic Family
% & # of Speakers
78.9% & 5,000
63.3% & 5,000

This data do not accurately reflect the dialects spoken in Canada, nor what the 1990 population figures would have been for Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota (Sioux, Assiniboine, and Stoney). In fact, who are they classifying as Sioux? As Assiniboine? As Dakota? Further, given the nature of language use surveys, in a general sense their validity is highly questionable. The question “do you speak your language” is open to individual interpretation. Some people may feel they can speak their language although they may only know 20 words. The same holds true for questions about “home language.” Some people may say it is their home language, based on the fact they are of Dakota heritage and occasionally they have visitors who know the language. Most Dakota/Nakota/Lakota people have a strong sense of Dakota/Nakota/Lakota identity and are embarrassed by the fact they are not fluent in the language. To publicly admit that one does not know their language is a real blow to the ego and one's identity.


Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre