Leadership in Indigenous Languages

Kristen Talbert

ILA Project Coordinator

You may have heard that AIPI is creating an Indigenous Leadership Academy.

Last week on social media, we asked how you say the word, “leader” in your Indigenous language. We heard the word “nongialam” in the Khasi language, “sogemo” in the Abenaki Penobscot language, “nat’aani” in the Navajo language and “tikba’ ishtaya” in Chickasaw . Being from Minnesota where the Dakota and Ojibwe people are, “ogimaa” is leader in the Ojibwe language, and “itancan” is a leader in the Dakota language. As a student of the Dakota language, I encourage Indigenous people to speak their language whenever possible. 

My family and I use “itancan” when hiking. To elaborate, when we start the hike we ask, “Who is the itancan?” Part of this journey means recognizing that we all lead at different times. Sometimes we need to take a break or slow down, and that’s when we ask another person to  lead. When we hike, the itancan has to be a good communicator, have the best interest of the group in mind, know when to take breaks, and when to start moving again. All of these are skills needed to be a good leader in any capacity. The itancan only succeeds when everyone crosses the finish line.

Henana, pidamaya ye (that is all, thank you). Kristen