Albert White Hat

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Albert White Hat
Albert White Hat.jpg
Tribe Sicangu Lakota (Sičháŋǧu Oyáte, Brulé)
Born (1938-11-18)November 18, 1938
Near St. Francis, South Dakota, Rosebud Reservation
Died June 13, 2013(2013-06-13) (aged 74)
Rosebud, South Dakota [1]
Native name Natan Tokahe, ("The First One to Charge")
Education St. Francis Jesuit Mission School; Lakota language teacher and scholar at Sinte Gleska University
Children Emily White Hat, and six other children
Relatives Grandfather, Hollow Horn Bear

Albert White Hat (November 18, 1938 - June 13, 2013) was a teacher of the Lakota language, and an activist for Sicanju Lakota traditional culture. He translated the Lakota language for Hollywood movies, including the 1990 movie Dances with Wolves, and created a modern Lakota orthography and textbook.

Early life[edit]

Albert White Hat was born near St. Francis, South Dakota on the Rosebud Reservation to a traditional family. "His grandfather was Chief Hollow Horn Bear."[2]

He spoke only Lakota as a child. He attended day school in Spring Creek, South Dakota.[3] Unlike many of his peers at St. Francis Jesuit Mission School, who were sent to boarding school at age five, he was not sent until age sixteen.[4]

I grew up with a lot of the older people, listened to the stories. And those stories were inside of me. And I went into a boarding school system, and they killed those stories in that system. I came out of there totally ashamed of who I am, what I am. In the late sixties, I went back to the culture, on my own. I let my hair grow, I started speaking my language. And one of those times, I fasted. I did the vision quest, for five years.[5]

After graduating from St. Francis Jesuit Mission School, he held various jobs.

Teacher of Lakota language and culture[edit]

White Hat pushed for instruction in the Lakota language in the Todd County, South Dakota school district when his children entered school in the 1960s. Lakota language was not a part of the South Dakota state curriculum at the time. Eventually he learned to create his own lesson plans, and became a Lakota language teacher himself.[4] He became chair of the "Committee for the Preservation of the Lakota Language" in 1982.[6]

White Hat spent twenty-five years teaching the Lakota language at Sinte Gleska University on the Rosebud Indian Reservation, and became the head of the Sinte Gleska Lakota Studies Department."[6] He developed a teaching method that uses extensive examples from the culture of the Brule Lakota, and became known as a scholar of the language. He would teach Lakota culture to "both tribal members and non-Native Americans."[6] He has been quoted as saying, "When we teach a language to a student, we should develop in that student another heart and another mind."[7] He assembled his notes into a book in 1999, Reading and Writing the Lakota Language.[8] He was the "first native Lakota speaker to publish a Lakota textbook and glossary."[6]

He was active in traditional Lakota spiritual life. Rosebud Sioux Tribal President Cyril Scott called him "a great teacher" and "spiritual leader."[6][9] White Hat spoke at conferences and gatherings, including the 2008 "Planning for Seven Generations" conference in Boulder, Colorado,[10] and was well known on the powwow circuit.[6] A "Lakota Documentaries" video by Don Moccasin (1948–2009) features Albert White Hat speaking about the survival of the Lakota language, in Lakota with English language subtitles.[11]


We have a very simple statement of our philosophy. We say 'All my relatives.' [10]


  • White Hat, Sr., A. (1999). Reading and Writing the Lakota Language. Salt Lake City: The University of Utah Press. ISBN 9780874805727
  • White Hat, A., Sr. (1983). "Lakota ceremonial songs". Mission, South Dakota: Sinte Gleska University.


  • Living Indian Treasure Award (2007)
  • National Indian Education Association Indian Elder of the Year (2001)
  • Outstanding Indian Educator Award (1995) [11]


  1. ^ "Albert White Hat, Sr. Obituary - Wauneta, Nebraska -". Retrieved 2013-06-29. 
  2. ^ Post Store (2013-06-23). "Albert White Hat, preserver of Lakota language, dies at 74". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  3. ^ "Albert White Hat, Sr.: Life and Work". World Wisdom. Retrieved 2013-06-21. 
  4. ^ a b Andrews, John (2009). "Saving their Language: Speakers Try to Revive Laktoa and Dakota Before They Disappear". South Dakota Magazine: Celebrating Life in South Dakota (March/April). Retrieved 2013-06-29. 
  5. ^ "This Isn't History". Episode Eight (1887-1914), One Sky Above Us. PBS. Retrieved 2013-06-29.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Eaton, Kristie (2013-06-18). "Author, teacher of endangered Lakota language dies". Retrieved 2013-06-21. 
  7. ^ "Reading and Writing the Lakota Language: Albert White Hat Sr., Jael Kampfe, Vine Deloria Jr.: 9780874805727". Books. Retrieved 2013-06-29. 
  8. ^ "Lakota Educator, Author, and Linguist Albert White Hat Walks On -". Indian Country Today Media Network. 2013-06-19. Retrieved 2013-06-21. 
  9. ^ "Albert White Hat passes to the spirit world". Indianz.Com > Native Sun News. 2013-06-20. Retrieved 2013-06-29. 
  10. ^ a b "Albert White Hat". Tribes & Climate Change. Retrieved 2013-06-21. 
  11. ^ a b Antoine, Dr. Jurgita. "Albert White Hat and Lakota Language Preservation". Tribal College Journal of American Indian Higher Education. Retrieved 2013-06-29. 

External links[edit]