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Ben Black Bear, Jr.

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Ben Black Bear, Jr.
Sicangu Lakota (Sičháŋǧu Oyáte, Brulé) leader
Personal details
BornRosebud Indian Reservation, South Dakota, U.S.
RelationsBen Black Bear (father)
EducationSt. Francis Jesuit Mission School; Lakota language teacher and scholar at Sinte Gleska University and at Lakota Language Consortium

Ben Black Bear, Jr. is a Lakota language scholar known primarily for co-writing the most detailed and comprehensive grammar of the language, as well as for his participation as one of the main consultants for the New Lakota Dictionary, the largest and most reliable dictionary of the language. As a fluent Lakota speaker, he also helped to create numerous educational products, including a series of textbooks, interactive multimedia apps, an e-learning platform, etc.

Ben Black Bear, Jr. is a member of the Sičháŋǧu Lakȟóta tribe of Rosebud, SD. He grew up in a traditional Lakota family and his father, Ben Black Bear, Sr. was a renowned traditional singer who authored the book and CD titled Lakota Songs and Dance, which offers a large collection of traditional songs, including a description of the dances in both Lakota and English.

During the late 1960s, Ben Black Bear, Jr. was one of the native speakers from Rosebud and Pine Ridge who worked with the Colorado University linguists Dave Rood and Allan on the creation of a Lakota orthography and textbooks. At that time he was the chair of the Lakota Language and Culture department of the Sinte Gleska University, and he established the new writing system as the standard orthography of the institution. After several years he took a different position and the orthography was abandoned.

Since 2005, Ben Black Bear, Jr. serves as a board member of the Lakota Language Consortium, a native-lead non-profit organization that was founded by a group of Pine Ridge elders following a resolution adopted by the tribal council of the Oglala Sioux Tribe in July 2001 in support of establishing the organization. Through his work with the Lakota Language Consortium, Ben Black Bear, Jr. was able to continue his work on establishing the Colorado writing system as the standard orthography of the Lakota Language.

Ben Black Bear, Jr. spent fifty years teaching and researching the Lakota language, and he produced an exceptionally large amount of data, products, and educational services on its behalf. During his carrier, he has often been joined in his education activities by his sister Sandra Black Bear and later also by his granddaughter Shania Black Bear. Among other events, he participates as an instructor during Lakota Summer Institutes held at tribal colleges.

Ben Black Bear collaborated extensively with the linguist Jan Ullrich, with whom he co-authored the Lakota Grammar Handbook (2016), which is the most comprehensive grammar of the language to date.

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