NDN Collective is in the process of opening Rapid City’s first indigenous-led school

RAPID CITY, S.D. — The NDN Collective is working with an organization to open the first indigenous-led school for Native Americans in the state. NDN and the Native American Community Academy Inspired School Network are in the early planning stages for the Oceti Sakowin Community School.

The curriculum and philosophy for the new school will be to learn and understand more about Native American culture and those who first lived in South Dakota. A NACA Inspired Schools Network fellow is helping lead the design process since they have created other school like this in native communities across the country.

Mary Bowman, NISN fellow said “they have a network of schools in the southwest who have done this in the southwest area. You know with the Dana culture and all of the cultures in the southwest. So they have a network of schools that they started and they mentor through. The first year is planning and we are in the planning process right now.”

It will operate as a private school with the possibility of receiving public funding in the future.

The Oceti Sakowin Community School will start out as a Kindergarten and add another grade each year until the school is K-12.

“Its critical for students to be proficient readers by 3rd grade. So that’s why we’re starting all the younger grades, really trying to make that big impact.” Said Bowman.

What makes this school different from traditional public schools is that Lakota languages and cultures will be present in every classroom.

“In our school they’ll see the language throughout the entire school they’ll see it in every class. We really hope to develop proficient speakers. When kids know who they are and where they are come from they gain a real sense of confidence.”

Teachers at the school will be certified by the South Dakota Department of Education. But the teachers will also need to be certified Lakota language speakers which can be hard to find.

Mary Bowman also said “another side project that we’re doing is helping to develop and graduate certified Lakota language teachers as well as utilizing people in the community. We have the experts about the culture right here in our community.”

Although it is not yet certain where the school will be located NDN Collective believe North Rapid City would be the best option since most of the potential student body lives in that area.


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