Sharing the language and culture of the Lakota

By Denice Aby
Alliance, Nebraska (AP) April 2012

Edison Red Nest is a Lakota language instructor, teaching youth, and soon adult courses, also, in Alliance.

In a series of seven lessons, Red Nest offers participants of all ages the opportunity to gain a basic knowledge of the pronunciation and meaning of the Lakota language.

“It’s the same textbook – the same curriculum – as on the reservation,” he said.

In guiding his students through each lesson, Red Nest is very relaxed, using flash cards and humor – making it a fun experience for the kids.

His interest in learning and eventually teaching Lakota to others began to take shape during a period of incarceration and rehabilitation, in which he learned about the language, as well as mastering the drumming technique and its meaning in traditional native culture.

“I took advantage of the programs,” he said, “... and went through the treatment program.”

Along with putting his effort into completing college courses, he said it became time of spiritual growth, where he began to look to the Lakota culture for guidance in his own life.

By 2008, Red Nest said he and some friends would set up drums and sing in local parks as a way to practice drumming, while entertaining and teaching others through the ancient culture of the Lakota.

Currently, Red Nest is a youth organizer at the Native American Center in Chadron and commutes to and from Alliance.

Red Nest also has a part-time position with Supportive Systems for Rural Homeless Youth: a program that assists teens and young adults ages 16 to 22, in finding resources when seeking employment, medical care, counseling or other needs. At this time, Red Nest is working closely with two individuals within the program.

“It is very rewarding – I’m proud of myself – my girlfriend is proud of me.”

“It’s just a good feeling to go from selling drugs to helping kids.”

Red Nest also teaches his students about the drums, and of course, being at the YMCA facility, Red Nest said he incorporates a physical fitness aspect into the program, getting his students to play basketball and other games, too.

For now, Red Nest points out that the program is in the early planning stages, saying, “We’re just getting on our feet, getting organized – but it’s growing.”

The classes are offered free of charge, and Red Nest wants to keep it that way.

“We’re not going to turn anybody away,” he said, pointing out that if necessary, he would pay for the expense out of his own pocket or offer transportation for his students, simply to continue to offer this positive educational experience for the kids.

“It wouldn’t be possible without parents,” he said, and hopes that families will continue to support the program.

Red Nest said everyone is welcome to participate, and he wants the community to know, “We are real – we are legit, and all they need is a willingness to learn.”

The youth classes take place on Tuesday and Saturday each week from 6-7:30 p.m. Beginning April 23, the adult classes will be Monday evenings from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Alliance Learning Center.

For information, contact Edison Red Nest at 760-4336 or Mary Wernke at 487-6397.