Albert White Hat, Sr. (Lakota name:
Natan Tokahe, "The First One to Charge") was a Sicangu (Rosebud) Lakota
educator, author, linguist, tribal and spiritual leader, and respected elder. Chief White Hat wrote the foreword to Paul Goble's book The Boy & His Mud Horses: And Other Stories from the Tipi. His
grandfather was Chief Hollow Horn Bear, a famous Lakota war leader. A respected
tribal leader, Albert White Hat, Sr.’s awards included the 2007 Governor's Award
in South Dakota. where he received the Living Indian Treasure Award “for his many
contributions to Native American art forms. White Hat, who has been honored by the
designation of traditional Chief by the Sicangu (Rosebud) Lakota people…continues
to promote education and awareness for his people in the 21st century while maintaining
a traditional way of life.”
Other awards included the Gamahiel Chair for Peace and Justice in 1987, the Outstanding
Indian Educator Award in 1995, and the National Indian Education Association's Indian
Elder of the Year in 2001.
Chief White Hat was born on the outskirts of Saint Francis, SD, on the Rosebud Lakota
Reservation. His father died when the boy was four, and his mother when he was seventeen.
However, his family was one that followed the traditional Lakota ways, and White
Hat only spoke Lakota until age seven, when he started his formal schooling. He
attended day school in the community of Spring Creek and then attended and graduated
from St. Francis Jesuit Mission School. Regarding his education and the Lakota traditional
ways, he said, “I got my education from the Jesuits, then I went back to my
traditional ways and beliefs.” After his schooling, White Hat worked at a variety
of jobs until he found his vocation as a scholar and teacher of Lakota language,
culture, thought, oral history, and spirituality.
White Hat was a Lakota language instructor for over twenty-five years. He taught
at, and later became the director of the Lakota language program at Sinte Gleska
University at Mission, SD, the first tribal-based university in the US. After years
of teaching Lakota from his own notes, he wrote a book, Reading and Writing the
Lakota Language (Salt Lake City: The University of Utah Press, 1999) which has enjoyed
widespread use. In 1982, because of his experience and ideas, he also chaired the
Committee for the Preservation of the Lakota Language.
In addition, White Hat provided Lakota translations for many Hollywood movies,
including Kevin Costner’s well-known 1990 film Dances with Wolves.
Besides teaching Lakota language, Albert White Hat also taught Lakota Philosophy
and consulted on environmental projects through the perspective of American Indian
attitudes towards the natural world.
Albert White Hat, Sr. last lived in St. Francis, SD. He died in South Dakota on June 11, 2013 at the age of 74.