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Many schools not teaching required Native American content standards

Indian Education for All
Jackie Hendry
Protesters hold a sign near the Department of Education office in Pierre on Sept. 13, 2021.

A state Department of Education Survey shows 45% of schools are currently using the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings.

These content standards guide instruction on the history and culture of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people of this region. They were approved by the state Board of Education Standards in 2018, which makes them required for all K-12 students. Until recently, though, the Department of Education had no way of knowing how broadly the standards were implemented.

The department distributed surveys to school districts earlier this year. Secretary of Education Tiffany Sanderson says there were 700 responses.

"Nearly half of our teachers are implementing the OSEUs into their curriculum, which I think is fantastic," she says. "It's a good starting place and obviously gives us a lot of room to help support additional teachers going forward."

Sanderson says the reasons offered by respondents who don't use the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings were not surprising.

"One is just confidence in teaching history and culture, so professional development for teachers is one area that we'll continue to support," she says. "There are high quality resources available, but not everybody knows about them."

Those resources include the WoLakota online videos and the Wóokiye Project, an online support network to help teachers use the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings. Sanderson says continuing to spread the word about those resources is an important step to increasing the usage of the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings.