A portrait of Gideon Pond, the first to write the Dakota Languageby Cathy Wurzer, Minnesota Public Radio
Tawaxitu means "friend" in the language of the Dakota Indians. The first person to write those words down was a white missionary named Gideon Pond.
In Bloomington this Sunday, there will be a celebration of Pond's 200th birthday at the house he built there in 1852.
Pond and his brother Samuel came to Minnesota to convert Indians to Christianity.
"They thought, 'We'll go out to this fresh field and spread God's word,'" St. John's University historian Annette Atkins said.
But the Ponds did more than preach. They catalogued their observations about Sioux and Dakota culture. These manuscripts remain some of the most complete observations of the tribes before the loss of their vast hunting lands.
They also learned the Indians' language and then devised a way to write it down using the standard Roman alphabet.
The Ponds painstakingly translated the Bible, compiled the first Dakota-English dictionary and even published a monthly Dakota language newspaper. Dakota Tawaxitu Kin was the first non-English newspaper to be published in Minnesota.
- Morning Edition, 06/25/2010, 7:45 a.m.