Rising Voices is an upcoming documentary film by Wil Meya of The Language Conservancy and by Florentine Films/Hott Productions.
The Language Conservancy is a nonprofit organization that spreads information to the public about the crisis of endangered languages in effort to gain more support for Indigenous languages. They also work with Natives across the U.S. on language revitalization issues.
The idea for Rising Voices started three years ago after noticing the great efforts put forth to revitalize the Lakota language by young people and The Language Conservancy. Some of the projects of the program include summer institutes and creating media projects, such as The Berenstain Bears in the Lakota language.
Meya started working with the Lakota language about 20 years ago while working on his anthropological linguistics doctorate at Indiana University. While he worked with the Pine Ridge, Standing Rock, and Cheyenne River communities, Meya saw a need for teacher training and more materials, which led to The Language Conservancy helping with his work.
Rising Voices incorporates the history of Native language extinction, the struggles that Natives go through while learning Lakota as a second language, and stories of how the Lakota people are now working to revive and strengthen their language.
Meya hopes that this film will motivate other young people to learn either Lakota or their own language, so that they can begin to transmit a critical part of their culture. With The Language Conservancy, Meya would like to see a new generation of bilingual speakers.
At LanguageConservancy.org, anyone can “Get Involved” with Native language revitalization by either choosing to “Become a Language Activist,” give a “One Time Gift,” or learn about “Other Ways to Give.”
Why is his focus on the Lakota language? Meya said that he feels that there are enough speakers left for the language to be revitalized and passed on. There is the potential for it to be a strong language again among its 150,000 members. “Language is the basis of identity,” Meya said.
Rising Voices is projected to appear on Public Television stations in 2015.
Written by Rebekka Schlichting.
Interviews conducted and edited by Rebekka Schlichting.