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Sad news out of Sioux Valley as Beloved Elder, Doris Pratt Leaves Us

March 8, 2019

FNiT2T extends their condolences to the family and friends of the late Doris Pratt.

(This is a re-post from the MFNERC Facebook Page)

The Manitoba First Nation Education Resource Centre extends our deepest sympathies to the family of the late Doris Dowan Pratt (Duzahan Mani Win) of Sioux Valley Dakota Nation. Throughout her life, she was an influential Elder, teacher, education director, principal, university administrator, lecturer, and author. Elder Pratt worked tirelessly in the area of language revitalization as a key contributor to the preservation of the Dakota language—many looked to her as a leader in language and culture.

Elder Pratt was instrumental in providing guidance to the Centre in the regional First Nations Languages Strategy and created many language resources to benefit Dakota youth and future generations. In November 2018, she published a book titled Keeping Baby Close: The Making of a Moss Bag. Launched in Brandon, just outside her home community, this book was met with great success by a standing room only audience. She also authored Untuwe Pi Kin He – Who We Are as part of the Treaty Elders’ Teachings, Volume 1 for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba. Her other writing accomplishments include the creation of an illustrated Dakota language dictionary in 1982.

She spent over 50 years preserving the language and dialects of the Dakota language in Canada, which varies from the Lakota language spoken in the United States. Her contributions to language, culture, and education were recognized by the YWCA in Brandon, and she was granted their Lifetime Achievement Award. Elder Pratt also served as an official translator for the federal government and continued to work as a private consultant and public speaker on an ongoing basis.

In her early years, she attended a day school and the Birtle Indian Residential School in Elkhorn, Manitoba. Later in life, she attended Brandon University, where she received a
Bachelor of Education and Master of Education. From the American Indian Language Development Institute at the University of Arizona, she earned an Education Specialist degree.

She recently shared a story with some MFNERC staff on how she first understood the importance of the Dakota language—at the age of six she began translating to help the teacher communicate with other First Nations students. She also envisioned the development of a First Nations language institute as the heart of a First Nations university.

As she travels to the spirit world, her legacy will continue on through her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and everyone who she has mentored and inspired. She can be secure in the knowledge that her life’s work has helped many to understand the importance of the Dakota language and culture through her passion and commitment to education.

Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and community during this time.

Last modified: March 8, 2019

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