Albert White: Hat American Indian who championed the Lakota language
Wednesday 19 June 2013
The endangered Lakota language has lost one of its greatest supporters. Albert White Hat, who died in South Dakota on 11 June at the age of 74 of prostate cancer, was instrumental in teaching and preserving the American Indian language and translated the Hollywood film Dances with Wolves into Lakota for its actors.
White Hat, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, wrote several books on writing and reading Lakota, a language fluently spoken by fewer than 6,000 people. The average age of those speakers is 60, and less than 14 percent of the Lakota population in South Dakota and North Dakota – where the vast majority of Lakota speakers live – speak their native tongue.
The first native Lakota speaker to publish a Lakota textbook and glossary, White Hat was considered an activist for traditional ways of living, according to his daughter, Emily White Hat. He even created an orthography for the language, which he had taught since 1975, and was head of the Lakota Studies Department at Sinte Gleska University on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. His daughter said he believed in sharing the Lakota way of life with both tribal members and non-Native Americans.
He believed "there was always an opportunity to educate," she said. "Even though some questions may be off the wall, he believed it was better to take the opportunity than to be misled about who we are."
One of those opportunities came when White Hat provided the translation for the Lakota dialogue in the 1990 Oscar-winning Kevin Costner film Dances with Wolves.
Wilhelm Meya, executive director of the Lakota Language Consortium, a not-for-profit organisation seeking to revitalise the Lakota language, called White Hat a "warrior" for the language. Meya said he hopes White Hat's legacy lives on, and that more young people will decide to study the language and work to retain its importance. "Over 100 Lakota speakers pass on [each year]," Meya said. "Those speakers are not being replaced by young speakers. Until we can reverse that trend, the language will continue to be very much in danger."
White Hat was born on the outskirts of St. Francis, South Dakota, on the Rosebud reservation. He spoke only Lakota until his teens, when he started learning English in school. His grandfather, Chief Hollow Horn Bear, was a leading chief in many of the Plains Indians Wars against settlers in the 1800s, and was also involved in treaty negotiations with the U.S.
Rosebud Sioux Tribal President Cyril Scott called White Hat a great teacher, spiritual leader and friend. He noted that White Hat was known all over the powwow circuit and was awarded numerous awards in honor of his dedication to preserving the Lakota language and culture. White Hat is survived by his wife, seven children and many grandchildren.
International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important
Feminist quotes to inspire you on the International Women's Day
Oscar Pistorius trial first week: Never mind a media scrum – murder case becomes bizarre safari following the tracks of a wounded lion
International Women’s Day: 'When a man gives his opinion, he's a man. When a woman gives her opinion, she's a bitch' - feminist quotes from female icons to inspire you
Malaysia Airlines plane: Oil slick is first sign that missing flight crashed into sea killing up to 239 on board
Apple's Tim Cook: Business isn’t just about making profit
Thousands of young people forced to go without food after benefits wrongly stopped under 'draconian' new sanctions regime
Ukraine crisis: New navy chief 'defects' and surrenders Crimean HQ as Putin claims ultranationalists forced intervention
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Ukraine crisis: Russia dismisses '3am ultimatum' as 'total nonsense'
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast
- 1 To those who can’t see the point of International Women’s Day: you are the very reason it exists
- 2 International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Too upsetting? Academy members voted for Oscar-winning 12 Years A Slave 'without watching it'
- 5 Liam Neeson turned down James Bond role because late wife Natasha Richardson said she wouldn't marry him if he took it
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: A small but growing chain of boutique hot...
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: The company works with Tier 1 FTSE 100 Ba...
£45 - 60k Per Annum: Charter Selection: Highly profitable leisure brand, marke...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Residenti...