First indigenous led school slated for South Dakota

Girl braids hair.
Girl braids hair.(KEVN)
Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 7:07 PM MDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - In Public School’s, indigenous students are less likely to graduate and face over a 20-point gap in reading, writing and numeracy comprehension compared to their peers.

There’s an issue afoot.

One that drove NDN Collective to announce the first indigenous led school to come to South Dakota.

Amy Sazue, NDN’s Education Equity Organizer, is optimistic about the opportunities this will provide for Native Americans.

“Sioux Falls and Rapid City, they’re both just really reflective of the need for change. The system as it is broken and, historically, does not serve one demographic,” says Sazue. “That’s a reflection of a broken system, not a broken population.”

Currently, state standards label much of indigenous culture in a curriculum as an ‘add-on,’ rather than core.

With the school to come, those add-ons will be flipped, and become foundational, and mesh with Native American culture.

The school will not be exclusive to indigenous youth. Instead, anyone can apply.

“It’s just as important for non-native students to learn culture and understand identity, being able to connect to identity, for them to be able to connect to their community,” says Sazue.

Rapid City Area Schools District Superintendent, Dr. Lori Simon, says that she “shares the group’s concerns regarding the opportunity gap that exists for Native American students in our district, state and country.”

A child acknowledging the difference in their school life and home life is a challenge, and is a struggle a mother sees firsthand.

“I know from my own kids that the lessons that they get at home aren’t the same as at the school,” says Sazue. “I’m excited for the potential for our kids to see their home life transferred to school.”

The school will focus on community outreach and will be built by the community and for the community.

“We will continue to seek legislation to support these schools and to provide some sustainability. We believe we have the answer and are putting all of our efforts into seeing it to fruition. People are already asking about waitlists and wanting to know how they can get their kids on,” says Sazue. “It’s something that’s been a long time coming, and much needed for our community.”

NDN Collective is eager to see the results that come from the school, which will be named Ocheti Sakowin. A name that refers to the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people’s ancestral lands right beneath our feet.

The school is planned to be built by the Fall semester of 2022, and a location is yet to be determined.

Copyright 2021 KEVN. All rights reserved.