MORTON, MN

School starts next week for the young children attending the new Lower Sioux Early Head Start Immersion School in Morton.

"Immersion just means, it doesn't mean your teaching a language, immersion is like you're teaching science, you're teaching math, but it's all in the language.  So it's just every single day it's going to be there," explained school director Vanessa Goodthunder.  "We want to be eight hours full immersion, children come in you only speak and hear Dakota in those walls."

This school will teach infants, toddlers and young children up to the age of five the Dakota language as well as the heritage of their people which can be crucial to help these children feel a connection to their heritage.

"Suicide rates are huge in Native communities especially you know," said Goodthunder.  "In the country they've done this research and they said Native youth are 1.5 times more likely to commit suicide than any other group and so we know that Dakota Language helps them feel a sense of belonging and so if they know who they are because they know their language maybe we are making a difference there."

A plan that has been a couple of years in the making, Goodthunder says none of this would even be possible without one main component.

"But really the thought, the hope and the feeling came from the community," said Goodthunder.  "We had a community survey and that was in May of 2017 about a little over 70% of the community said we need something cultural for our babies so that's why we even decided to go and submit the grant so it's because of them."

With a full teaching staff, eager families and first–language Dakota speakers to assist along the way, this school is fully prepared for what's to come.

"Oh goodness okay so the grand opening is next Monday where the whole community gets to see the building and there's going to be a ribbon cutting, I'm hearing there's huge scissors, huge ribbon, our tribal council is going to be here and they have really been the one to support it and really think about the idea through the get–go," said Goodthunder.

The entire community can check out the building Monday, July 30th from 4–7 p.m.

--KEYC News 12