A new community-based school in Rapid City will immerse students in Lakota language and culture.
The effort is a response to the refusal by state and local leaders to open similar schools around the state.
The NDN collective is behind the new school. The non-profit organization focuses on indigenous advocacy and has tried to push the state to approve schools that teach Oceti Sakowin essential understandings. That curriculum is centered around Lakota language and culture. State lawmakers rejected the proposals twice, so now organizers are taking the idea into their own hands.
Sarah Pierce is the Director of Education Equity at NDN Collective. She says the new Rapid City school will be designed by indigenous people for indigenous people. It will teach subjects in Lakota.
“No one knows needs better than authentic community representation,” Peirce says. “That will set the school apart. With the cultural norms, such as kinship, and the priority of Lakota language and culture as a deep embedded foundational aspect of the school—not an elective—will set us apart.”
The graduation rate among indigenous students in South Dakota is the lowest of any group. Pierce says the school will aim to close that achievement gaps.
“When we think about the compulsory imposition of education on indigenous peoples in America, this school will really challenge what history has taught us, that we cannot impose something on a demographic.”
More than 20 percent of Rapid City school students are Native American. The NDN Collective, based in Rapid City, will open and fund the school. It’s expected to open in the Fall of 2022 with 40 kindergarten students the first year.