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Group decries 'active erasure' of Tribes from draft standards

SDPB Radio
Jackie Hendry

Dozens of educators, students and tribal leaders marched through pouring rain in Pierre on Monday. They oppose a draft of new social studies standards that removes many references to the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people.  

Organizers say it’s an active erasure of tribes in the state. 

Demonstrators gathered just north of the state capitol building, not far from the state Department of Education offices.  

Sarah White of the South Dakota Education Equity Coalition read a list of demands. They include moving the Office of Indian Education back under the Department of Education, requiring Native American content standards in all levels of South Dakota education, and tribal consultation in state education decisions.  

“And the fifth demand relatives, that you are hearing for the first time today, on behalf of the South Dakota Education Equity Coalition and our coalition partners, we are demanding for the resignation of Governor Kristi Noem,” she announced to cheers from the crowd. 

White also read calls for the resignations of Secretary of Education Tiffany Sanderson, Secretary of Tribal Relations David Flute, and Director of Indian Education Fred Osborn.  

This comes after the Department of Education’s public draft of updated social studies standards differed from the recommendations of a workgroup. Secretary Sanderson has said the changes are intended to make the social studies standards more inclusive.  

Crow Creek Tribal Chairman Peter Lengkeek was one of several tribal leaders in attendance on Monday. He says knowledge about area tribes is essential for all South Dakotans, but communication has broken down between tribes and the Noem administration.  

“As far as resignation, you know, if the task isn’t getting done, the job isn’t getting done, they should step down. And let someone in that can accomplish these things,” he said.

Governor Noem’s spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The first public hearing on the draft social studies standards is Oct. 25 in Aberdeen.  

Updated: September 15, 2021 at 9:21 AM CDT
This story has been updated with new information. State officials have rescheduled the first public hearing on the proposed social-studies standards to Oct. 25.
Jackie is based out of SDPB's Sioux Falls Studio.