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Heart of All: Lakota Oral History Project

May 6, 2022

Artwork designed by Elizabeth Iron Horn and colored by Kansas Clifford

With a desire to preserve the oral history passed down from their Lakota elders, students at Little Wound School in Kyle, South Dakota, set out to record these stories for present and future generations.

Supported and funded by grants through the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Heart of All Oral History Project is an audio series from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This compilation shares the stories not typically found in textbooks but instead, the legends that were lived out by or shared with the Lakota elders.

Historically, the Lakota people used oral communication as one way to share the stories that shaped their values, beliefs, spiritual paths and overall way of life from generation to generation. Within this seven-part audio series, the Lakota oyate seek to preserve those stories in their traditional way: through spoken word.

In January of 2020, nearly 50 students at the Taopi Cikala Owayawa, or Little Wound School, began recording stories from their elders to document their shared ancestral pasts. What began as a project to record the past has become an important addition to traditional storytelling and the significance of hearing stories out loud, as it merges the old way with new technological advances for a broader audience.

The Heart of All Oral History Project falls in line with the mission of the South Dakota Humanities Council as it seeks to preserve the language, history, and culture of the Lakota people.

“This project blends traditional stories told by elders with modern media created by youth,” says Ann Volin, SDHC Executive Director. “In the process, it preserves and shares authentic Lakota culture and history with a wider audience. This is a wonderful example of the kind of valuable programming NEH funding can create.”

The series is currently available on the project’s website,, and can also be found on streaming services. 

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