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Senate Unanimously Approves Oceti Sakowin Community-Based Schools


A bill allowing for the creation of community-based schools centered on Native American cultural curriculum passes the Senate unanimously.

Senate Bill 66 allows for schools centered on the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings. They deal with language, treaty rights, sovereignty, and other topics.

On the floor, Senator Wayne Steinhauer explains this isn’t just about separate schools for Native Americans.

“There is specific criteria at every grade level for a particular standard that’s going to be taught, and the activity that’s suggested, and the resources that they use, and how they test for it," he explains to the body. "So this is a disciplined approach that’s overlaid with traditional education.”

Up to four school districts can sponsor an Oceti Sakowin school in the first five years if the bill becomes law. Those sponsoring districts will transfer funding to the schools based on the percentage of students enrolled in them.

Senate Majority Leader Kris Langer credits the bill’s unanimous vote to good discussions.

“Even though it might not be perfect and there’s gonna be some stumbling blocks, stumbling things that come up, it was definitely worthy of at least a trial basis of how that goes, and hopefully there’s be some great successes that come from that. You know, their cultural differences and their style of learning. Hopefully we can address some of those issues and make learning fun and effective.”

Senate Minority Leader Troy Heinert is the bill’s prime sponsor.

“It was so emotional for a lot of people," says Heinert. "I couldn’t ask for a better outcome. Obviously we’ll have some work to do in the House to educate our colleagues of why this is important, but the bigger work is when we get home and these schools get established, what do we do that works for kids? And this bill gives us that opportunity, and we’ll do a good job with it.”

The bill’s next step is committee hearing in the House.