The Berenstain Bears have been helping to raise generations of children since 1962 with their anthropomorphic tales of morality and good manners. But their next goal isn't helping children understand the importance of cleaning their room, or why it's not nice to swear. Rather, they're being used to help save a dying Native American language.
"Matho Waunsila Thiwahe," or "Compassionate Bear Family" in Lakota, is the first animated series ever translated into an American Indian language. It began airing this week on public television in North and South Dakota. Twenty episodes of The Berenstain Bears were dubbed into the Sioux language and will run weekly through 2011.
Less than 6,000 of the 120,000 members of Sioux tribes, who often also self-identify as Lakota, speak the language or its related dialects.
"The bears are doing their part to save a language," said Wilhelm Meya, executive director of Lakota Language Consortium. "Kids love cartoons. This is a great way to reach them to engage them in the language in a fun and yet educational way."
More proof of the decline of children's entertainment: the Berenstain Bears are helping to save a dying indigenous language, and SpongeBob SquarePants impairs brain function. Side note: "Compassionate Bear Family" is a sweet name for a band.