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On June 14, Disney+ will release the Avengers film dubbed entirely in the Lakota language, marking a pivotal moment for Indigenous representation in mainstream media.

This groundbreaking project is the result of Grey Willow Music Studios & Production, a Native-owned sound company, along with the help of the Lakota Reclamation Project, students from McLaughlin school, elders from the Standing Rock community and many others.

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“Our goal is to bring the Lakota language into living rooms and give our community something to be proud of. This project is not just ours; it’s for the people,CyrilChuckArchambault (Standing Rock), Executive Producer of the Lakota Dub Avengers, told Native News Online

The project traces back to a conversation between the Grey Willow sound production team a few years ago. They envisioned dubbing a major Hollywood film in Lakota to help reintroduce and promote the Lakota language. 

Archambault reached out to actor Mark Ruffalo, who had previously shown support for Native American issues during the Dakota Access Pipeline protest. Ruffalo's interest sparked a series of events leading to a pivotal meeting with Marvel and Disney. 

“We explained that we wanted to reintroduce the Lakota language into our homes, something that had been lost over time. We thought dubbing the Avengers, a movie our kids already love, would be a great way to do this,Archambault said.Seeing kids dressed as Captain America and Iron Man during Halloween showed us how much they connected with these characters.”

With the backing of Marvel and Deluxe Studios, the project received a green light. The Grey Willow team spent approximately 15 months dubbing 2012’sThe Avengersinto the Lakota-Dakota language, employing 62 local speakers to translate and record the script.

Initially slated for completion in 18 weeks, the project was extended over a year due to it being the team's inaugural venture. Recording sessions progressed seamlessly until an actor’s strike halted production.

Following the strike, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth joined the project. Conversations with them during the strike had secured their support, and once the strike ended, they recorded their lines. 

“The actors were incredibly respectful. For example, Scarlett Johansson shared that she had run into Steven Spielberg, who was excited about the project and mentioned that he was learning the language too. This enthusiasm and support from such prominent figures made the project even more special,Archambault said.

Translating a blockbuster like Avengers into Lakota presented unique challenges. The team had to navigate the complexities of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and translate technical terms like "Tesseract" into Lakota. Elders played a crucial role in this process, helping to create new terms for concepts that didn’t exist in the language.

“Lakota is a very descriptive, verb-based language, which made translating certain words tricky,Ray Taken Alive (Standing Rock), Executive Producer of the Lakota Dub Avengers, told Native News Online.For instance, the wordtankin English is one syllable, but in Lakota, the translation was a phrase describing its characteristics, which took about 17 syllables. This created timing issues since a single word in English could take several seconds to say in Lakota.”

Early screenings of the film have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the community. 

“Elders and community members continually approach us, expressing their happiness and pride in this project. Many have shared that they never had such opportunities when they were younger, which makes this all the more significant,Taken Alive said.

Taken Alive and Archambault see this project as just the beginning. They envision creating curriculum materials based on the film and incorporating Lakota language projects into popular media to promote and preserve the Lakota language and culture.

“The potential for educational use is vast. One of my dreams is to incorporate this work into Marvel Comics, creating educational resources that are freely available to our indigenous people,Archambault said.This project is just the beginning, and there's so much more we can achieve together.”

As the release date approaches on June 14, the excitement and anticipation within the Lakota community is building. Viewers around the world will soon witness a historic moment as the Avengers speak Lakota, bringing a piece of the Lakota culture into living rooms globally. 

“This film is more than just a one-time project; it will have a lasting impact,Archambault said. It's an incredible feeling knowing that we've created something that will help preserve and promote our language and culture for years to come.”

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About The Author
Kaili Berg
Author: Kaili BergEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Staff Reporter
Kaili Berg (Aleut) is a member of the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq Nation, and a shareholder of Koniag, Inc. She is a staff reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Berg, who is based in Wisconsin, previously reported for the Ho-Chunk Nation newspaper, Hocak Worak. She went to school originally for nursing, but changed her major after finding her passion in communications at Western Technical College in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.