They would never talk in front of us kids in our Dakota language

Ms. Pendleton talks about how her parents were punished for speaking their language, and how this impacted her.

Things to think about: 

Are people today punished for speaking their first language?

Audio Chapters

DL: When you were a little girl, did you learn much about being Dakota?

JP: I don’t know. My parents always talked their language. But then when we went to the public school where we couldn’t speak our language and had to speak English, they would never talk in front of us kids in our Dakota language.

DL: Did you speak Dakota when you were little?

JP: No.

DL: But your parents did.

JP: My parents did.

DL: But they didn’t teach you.

JP: No.

DL: It was just between them.

JP: Yes. Any relatives or neighbors came and they would speak it, because when my parents went to school they couldn’t speak the Dakota language either, so they just kind of kept it amongst themselves. I can understand most of it, you know.

DL: You still can.

JP: Yes. But as far as speaking it, they said that I shouldn’t learn at that time.

DL: Why do you suppose they said that?

JP: Because they had such a hard time – especially my mother. She lived down below the hill with my Grandpa Dave and they would walk from there about three to four miles to where the schoolhouse was then, and they would punish them if they did speak their language.

DL: Who was punishing them?

JP: The teachers.

DL: So it was: Speak English, or don’t speak at all?

JP: Yes. So what she went through, she didn’t want us going through.

DL: Did you learn anything of the Dakota religion?

JP: I remember when they would have pow-wows. It wasn’t really a pow-wow, but they would get together and sing and dance. My dad was a hoop dancer, and he would go over there and dance. Once in a while he would let us go. And my mother and dad, they sang in the Dakota language. They used to sing at home in Dakota. They were good singers, my mom and dad.

Oral History- Interview | Narrator Joan Pendleton Interviewer Deborah Locke made in Morton, Lower Sioux Community, MN | Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society. U.S. - Dakota War of 1862. They would never talk in front of us kids in our Dakota language May 29, 2024.

Viewpoints: All viewpoints expressed on this website are those of the contributors, and are not representative of the Minnesota Historical Society.