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Rare Dakota newspapers acquired

Bindery technician Sandra Linn repairs a rare 1851 issue of a Dakota language newspaper. (Briggs Library photo)
Bindery technician Sandra Linn repairs a rare 1851 issue of a Dakota language newspaper. (Briggs Library photo)

An historic Dakota language newspaper has been recently acquired by the SDSU Archives and Special Collections, making it a significant addition to the department’s growing collection of American Indian resources.

Dakota Tawaxitku Kin, or The Dakota Friend, ran from 1850–1852 and was written in both Santee Dakota and English, making it one of the first Dakota language publications. Twenty issues were printed, and eighteen of these issues are included in the collection now in Archives.

The Dakota Mission organization printed the newspaper in St. Paul, MN. Gideon Pond, the newspaper’s editor, came to Minnesota with his brother Samuel to work as missionaries. The brothers helped to produce a written Dakota language alphabet and assembled the first Dakota-English dictionary.

According to the publication’s mission statement, the newspaper aimed to share stories of interest to encourage reading among the Dakota people. It included local news, sports, language lessons and treaty transcripts.

The Dakota Friend is a rare piece of history that provides a glimpse into the lives, culture and language of regional peoples in the 1850s,” said archivist Michele Christian. “As the Dakota language becomes endangered, materials like these are important to the preservation and understanding of the culture.”

The Dakota Friend is not held by any other South Dakota library. Other copies are found at institutions such as Harvard, Yale and the Library of Congress. The SDSU Archives will be the first organization to digitize these original copies and make them freely available on the Digital Library of South Dakota and the Digital Public Library of America, allowing researchers worldwide to study the rare publications without touching the delicate paper.

Acquiring The Dakota Friend collection was made possible thanks to the Curtis Twedt Briggs Library Fund and the Gretchen Nelson South Dakota Room Endowment.

The library will hold a welcoming reception for The Dakota Friend on March 27 at 7 pm in Archives. It will include a talk by Dr. Sarah Hernandez, Assistant Professor of English and Head of the American Indian Studies Program. The program is supported by a generous donation from Mildred K. Hugghins. An exhibit about The Dakota Friend will also be on display.

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