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Canku presented at language summit

Clifford Canku, assistant professor of practice for Dakota Studies, presented “Dakota Prisoner-of-War Letters from the 1862 Dakota Minnesota War” on Nov. 18, at the third annual Lakota/Dakota/Nakota Language Summit in Rapid City, S.D. The presentation highlighted the translation project currently under way at NDSU and jointly funded by NDSU’s Gunlogson Fund and a grant from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Dakota Tribe in Minnesota.

Written in the POWs’ native Dakota language, the letters reveal conditions at the prison camp at Fort McClellan, outside Davenport, Iowa; descriptions of what really happened during the war; and speculation about what might happen to the POWs after they learned that President Abraham Lincoln, who had commuted their initial sentences of capital punishment, had been assassinated.

The translations from Dakota to English are being done by Canku and Rev. Michael Simon, both enrolled members of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate in North Dakota/South Dakota, and are being edited by John Peacock, professor of language, literature and culture at Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, and an enrolled member of the Spirit Lake Oyate in North Dakota.

Canku and Peacock also presented “Teaching Dakota Language at the College Level” on the following day. This year’s Language Summit drew more than 600 participants from 40 tribes across the U.S. and Canada, plus one Maori guest speaker from New Zealand.

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North Dakota State University
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Last Updated: Sunday, August 25, 2013
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