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Carol Two Eagle, Linguist Part 2


Today, we bring you part two on Carol Two Eagle, who was secretly taught her native languages by her grandmother, Pearl, who was also mixed-blood Dakota and Polish.

“(Pearl) was very harsh about some things,” Carol said. “She never took the middle ground. She used to say things like, ‘If you sit on the fence, all you will get is splinters in your rump.’ She was in many ways the antithesis of my (other) grandmother, but between them, they were hugely instrumental in raising me to be productive, and to not be a suicide or some other self-destructive behavior. Pearl used to tell me I was too much a marshmallow and that I needed to toughen up or life would kill me. She was right. I am no marshmallow any more.”

When Carol started kindergarten, her teacher sent a letter home with her that read, “Can you please speak English at home so Carol won’t have such an accent when she speaks in school?” In huge letters, Pearl wrote “NO!” on it and signed her name. Carol said, “Pearl, they'll kill me!” but her grandmother said, “No they won’t. They’d have to answer to me.” Carol says the school never said another word after that.

After learning English, Dakota and Polish, Two Eagle spent some time with an Italian foster family, where she picked up Italian. In school, she took classes in Latin, because she had to, and she also picked up Tex-Mex Spanish from migrant workers.

In college, she was required to have a German minor in order to get her degree in chemistry. Her German teacher needed more students in his Russian language course in order to renew the class the following year. He recognized Carol’s gift and during the 5th week of the semester, he asked her to join the Russian class, something that just wasn’t done, according to the Dean. But she had already joined the class, which brought her up to 20 credits for the semester, and within two weeks, she had the top A for the semester in that class.

When she moved to “Dakota Territory,” Two Eagle was Pipe-adopted by a Lakota family. She is a Sun Dancer and explains Pipe-adoption as “the practice of being spiritually adopted, which involves the use of a Channunpa – a Sacred Prayer Pipe – so there is ceremony involved. When we say ceremony we mean prayer,” she says, “therefore it is always a spiritual activity. In this case, since I was adopted with the Pipe, my soul is now Lakota first, because that is the kind of People who first adopted me. I have also been Pipe-adopted into other Lakota families and other Nations, such as the Mandan and Hidatsa, so my soul is now also partly them, too.”

Two Eagle proceeded to learn her adopted languages, which are different from her native Dakota and Lakota. Her Hidatsa brothers and sisters still find her attempts very funny. She says she told them, “Your language doesn’t fit very well in my Dakota mouth! My language is both nasal and glottal, and theirs is not.”

Of trying to learn her Native languages, Carol says, “My situation was legion among Native people between about 1940 and 1970. Then, slowly, VERY slowly, the People began teaching their children their languages again. I get children to pester their elders to teach them. When I am adopted by a child, or one is friendly, I ask them if they speak their language. If they say ‘no,’ I give them on of those Looks and say, ‘No??? You should pester your grandparents to teach you! They will… and don’t take no for an answer. If they ask who told you to do this, tell them Two Eagle did, and it’s a matter of respect for our Ways and our ancestors.’ They go do it.”

Now to you all: doksha ake’, which means until later.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm