Parents Putting A Positive Spin On School Closures Through Lakota Culture

Mar 16, 2020

Credit Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Schools across the state have been shut down for the week for deep cleaning at the recommendation of Governor Noem. Some parents are making the best of their children's time at home by adding tradition to the curriculum. 

Kim Tilsen-Brave Heart owns a Catering company in Rapid City. She’s currently staying at home with her kids, and teaching them how Lakota history relates to their lives today.

“We all exist because our ancestors were really good resource managers. And they knew how to preserve their food, and they knew how to ration their food and they knew how to prepare for the future.” 

Brave Heart has incorporated hands-on activities her kids don’t learn in classrooms. 

“Like teaching them how to do tabaco ties and smudge themselves and our home. We’re also boiling sage on the stove because it clears the air and cleanses the air as well. We’ve been reading a lot of Native books and talking about food and traditional foods as well.” 

Other Lakota parents have also taken the opportunity to focus on culture while the kids are out of school. Amy Sazue works for NDN collective and is staying at home with her family. She made a social media post to gather ideas for traditional curriculum and got a lot of suggestions. One activity is building a kin-ship tree and incorporating Lakota Language. 

“So we did the kinship terms, which they were familiar with but we have never tied them with every single relative in our Tiyóspaye, our immediate family. And so like auntie Franie is mom's sister so you call her Tuwin and that’s where she fits on the tree.”

Sazue says it’s important to make kids feel grounded and safe right now, since so many people are worried about the Corona Virus Pandemic.

"Trying to get rid of that fear part, like all this stuff can happen out in the world but you’re safe here. And it seems to be working, this isn’t a bath thing to be home. But it also isn't free for all. I was like we’re not going that way with it guys.”

Sazue says her kids are willing to learn when they’re comfortable at home in their pajamas.