A new website created with a primarily Native American audience in mind is posting news, features, sports and weather entirely in Lakota—the first of its kind to do so—in an attempt to help preserve a language that after forced assimilation policies is now spoken by fewer than 2,000 people, the AP reports. The site was developed by partners who have been involved in several initiatives to embed the Lakota language in various aspects of life. Their goal with Woihanble.com—which translates to "dream"—is to get the language out of the classroom. "Nowadays, everyone spends much of their daily life online," says Matthew Rama, one of the creators. "But until now, there has never been a site with as much content strictly in Lakota. So in that respect, we are bringing the language to the people in a brand-new way."
Woihanble.com's local news content (which includes audio clips in Lakota) comes from two area weeklies that mostly focus on Native American issues. The Lakota people say their language originated from the creation of the tribe, long before Europeans came to North America. But the number of speakers has shrunk through the decades, falling to 6,000 by the early 2000s and to just 2,000 as of last year. Those remaining in North and South Dakota have an average age approaching 70. A chief reason for the decline of Lakota speakers is a now-halted federal education mandate that in the late 19th century and early 20th century forced Native American children into boarding schools, where they were required to speak English and were punished if they were caught speaking their native languages.