I chose this page to use as an example of how the translations are made. There are issues like the word "Prevail" not having a clear equivalent in many languages and some languages not having a word for Peace or for Earth. People without a sense of the shape of the earth or its place among the stars had no need for a word to describe that.
Lakota Dakota Sioux
For decades peace poles were made with the translation below that was called Lakota Sioux. It was used for Lakota and Dakota.
Wo' wa'hwa la ma'ka a'kan u'num'we
But someone in Chicago, who was having me make a 7-sided copper peace pole with the Lakota translation on it, had some involvement the Lakota people and told me that some Lakota regard it as an insult to have the name of their language attached to the word Sioux.
I did some research and learned that the word Sioux was imposed on them by European settlers and they did not like it. In addition, there were the Dakota people who were being lumped in with the Lakota and they did not like that. So I came up with these translations for Lakota and Dakota.
Makasitomniya wolakota ni
Makasitomniya wodakota ni
Below is how these translations were chosen.
Both Lakota and Dakota are among the languages that do not have a word for Peace. Even native speakers of such languages can have trouble choosing the correct words to represent it. Sometimes “not war” or “anti kill” is as close as they can get. If English did not have a word for water, would we translate it as lake, ocean, sea, river, brook, rain, creek, stream, dew, wave, white cap, or foam? All are correct in the right context.
For Lakota I had three translations for the word peace: wowahwa, wowanwa, and wolakota.
An online Lakota dictionary chose wowahwa as the Lakota word for peace. But searches on wowahwa do not produce hits indicating that it has much importance to speakers of that language.
A Russian mega linguist with whom I was working at the time originally had picked “wowanwa” which is almost the same.
The mega linguist located translations of books and compared passages in them with translations in other languages to see how many times various translators chose certain words to represent Peace in differing contexts. For Lakota he settled on “wowanwa,” which is a legitimate choice. Internet searches on that word show it printed on tee shirts as the Lakota word for peace. And some sites with Lakota vocabulary lists pick it as the Lakota word for peace.
However, there were no American Indians naming non-profit organizations “wowanawa” or establishing websites with that word in the URL, but there were for the word Wolakota. Wowanwa is a valid choice and is used by many people, but below is why I chose Wolakota.
These are two academic websites that list "wolakota" as their choice for the translation of the word Peace into Lakota.
And there are American Indians naming non-profit organizations “wolakota” and establishing websites with that word as part of the URL, like the two below:
That shows what the word means to people who speak it. So I started using Wolakota as the Lakota translation for the word Peace.
Dakota and Lakota are so similar that most linguists consider them dialects of the same language, like the difference between British and American English. But I suspected that using Wolakota for the Dakota translation might not be the best idea because the word “Lakota” is spelled out within that word. In the absence of other information, I would have picked the "wowanwa" for Dakota as so many others have. But I wrote about the issue to a college that was ordering a peace pole with both Lakota and Dakota on it. They were in the region where the Dakota lived. People often choose languages that represent people in their area and so sometimes can be good sources for information about them.
They wrote back that their Native American ethnic student services director, who they believe is Dakota herself, said that in her opinion the best word for Peace in Lakota is "Wolakota" and, no surprise, that the equivalent word in Dakota is "Wodakota." She described it as meaning something like "wellness of our people," and community or harmony or unity for those nations, and also as a frame of mind, a way of living, a philosophy for life, the way they carry themselves - peace of mind.
She also said that there should be an accent over the first "o" in both translations. So their college got their translations with those accents.
The Russian mega linguist didn't think that in this context it made sense to pick terms for wellbeing or unity rather than terms that mean "no war" or "no conflict" when trying to translate Peace. So Wolakota does not translate exactly to Peace, but does appear to be the word chosen to mean Peace by the people who speak that language. For instance, at the link http://www.wolakota.org/ they begin their definition of Wodakota with the word Peaceful.
A state supreme court judge was interested in the issue for a translation for his peace poles. He previously had proved to be an excellent locator of such information. Through a string of contacts he got feedback from a teacher of the Lakota language at the Red Cloud Indian School who said that to be correct it needed to have the “h” shortened and a hacheck (a shortened “v”) put over that "h," which led to these translations.
However, that teacher did not mention an accent over the “o.” Neither did anyone else. No one else ever mentioned the hacheck or the "h" under it either. Perhaps it is archaic. But since the websites created by Lakota people use neither the accent nor the hacheck when spelling wolakota, the general usage appears not to include either. That could be the result of the limitations of computer keyboards, but it still is what everyone is doing.
I am happy to use any translation you want, but usually use the version near this top of the page unless instructed otherwise, as I recently was for a group in Illinois that requested this for Lakota:
Unci Maka akan wolakota unkagapi kte
I spend as much time on translations as I do making peace poles.