Albert White Hat Author Biography

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Home > Children's Authors > Albert White Hat

Albert White Hat
Photo of Albert White Hat

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.

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