Dakota Play Project

Meet our Lead Artists! Fern Renville (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate) and Juanita Espinoza (Spirit Lake Nation).

What We Are Doing

New Native Theatre and Lower Phalen Creek Project are teaming up to create an original play that will be performed completely in the Dakota language in 2023. This Community Created Play will serve as the opening programming for Wakáŋ Tipi Center in Saint Paul and is being created by Dakota people from many Dakota communities.  This environmental and cultural interpretive center, developed in consultation with the Tribal Historic Preservation Offices at Prairie Island, Shakopee, Upper Sioux, and Lower Sioux Indian Communities, will honor and serve to protect the sacred site, Wakáŋ Tipi and adjacent burial mounds on the East Side of Saint Paul. From May to October of 2022 we will be engaging with Dakota community members to learn Dakota language and write our play. From November 2022 to June 2023 we will provide language learning opportunities for the audience so that they can understand the play without English translations.

We are also looking for folks who would be willing to film themselves doing a brief video speaking Dakota for our social media, a feature we’re calling Dakota Minute or Oáphe Číštiŋna Dakhóta Iá. This is a fun way to get folks excited about and engaged with the project. You can check out the first of our Dakota Minute videos featuring Fern and Juanita on the New Native Theatre Instagram page. If you’re willing to help out doing a Dakota Minute video, email Sara (sara@newnativetheatre.org). 

Get Involved/Coming Up

We’ve set the start date for our Play Project Language Classes. Language and theatre classes will begin Tuesday, June 7th from 6:30-8:30pm on Zoom. These classes will take place each Tuesday through October online and are open to Dakota community members who are interested in helping create our Dakota language play. If you are interested in taking the language class or getting involved in other ways with Dakota Play Project, please contact sara@newnativetheatre.org.

Meet one of our Dakota Language teachers, Summer DuMarce. Summer Lara-DuMarce is a Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate tribal member passionate about language learning and revitalization. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2020 with her B.S. in Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology and B.A. in American Indian Studies and is currently attending Colorado State University pursuing a dual M.S./Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine degree. A huge passion of Summer’s is rekindling animal kinship bonds, both wild and domestic, through Indigenous stories and language. When Summer isn’t busy with her courses, she’s either crafting, traveling with her dog Amity, being outdoors, or teaching Dakota language. She’s been learning dakodiapi for almost 7 years now, and while still has much to learn, she enjoys teaching others what she does know to encourage them on their own language journey!