FORT TOTTEN, N.D. (KXNET) — Cankdeska Cikana Community College has released its new publication, Mniwakan: Place Names and History of the Spirit Lake Dakota, a tribute to the Spirit Lake Tribe’s traditional language and oral history.

To celebrate the book release, the college will give away signed copies during the annual Alumni Gathering on July 21, which is open to the public, according to a press release.

Mniwakan – which means Spirit Lake – complements oral tradition with the contemporary version of American history to tell a complete and honest perspective of the Dakota experience.

The book comprises 25 chapters in a story collection with includes nearly 100 significant places and landmarks based on decades of research by the coauthors, Louis Garcia and Mark Dietrich.

“The Dakota language is diminishing very,” said Garcia in a press release. “We have only a few language speakers, most of whom are elders. We need to preserve the language and knowledge of places the tribe considers significant, not only for our future generations but to educate the non-Dakota people about the history of the land.”

At age 82, Garcia serves as the college’s Dakota Studies instructor and as the Spirit Lake Nation’s tribal historian.

Since 1978, he has documented the tribe’s oral history and traditional knowledge primarily through listening to and interviewing tribal elders.

“For over 30 years, I’ve been collecting place names in the Dakota language,” said Garcia. “I selected all of these sites around Spirit Lake, on and off the reservation, and Mark helped straighten out my writing and researched additional supporting information about each of these places. All I recorded were the Indian names, so they would not be lost, and whatever information I could get from the elders I talked to.”