Rapid City’s first indigenous-led community-based school opened Tuesday in a grand ceremony at Camp Munir Zahan, welcoming 35 kindergarten students into the program after years of planning.
The Osseti Sakowin Community Academy will temporarily hold classes at St Andrew’s Episcopal Church until a permanent facility is built. Classes officially begin on Wednesday. The Lakota-based school has plans to build a new grade each year, starting with her one class in kindergarten.
OSCA president Bino Garcia said the school has been under construction for two years, hoping the South Dakota legislature will approve the funding. it’s not happening.
South Dakota law does not allow public charter schools, despite three attempts by state legislators to introduce legislation to fund the indigenous Osseti Sakowin School.
Instead, with private funding from the NDN Collective and partnerships with the Native American Community Academy of Albuquerque (NACA) and the NACA Inspired School Network (NISN), through the work of lead designer Mary Bowman, the Ossety Sakowin Community Academy Realized. School and NISN member.
“I am so grateful for today. It has been a long and painful fellowship for Mary, the NDN Collective team and NISN,” said Garcia. “We built this school from the ground up, from facilities to funding to curriculum to operations.”
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Bowman said the school’s development is an effort of love and respect for Lakota traditions.
“We’ve been planning for two years,” says Bowman. “It seems like a long time, but I know what our ancestors and many before us have wanted for a long time…the day has come. We celebrate it.” We are here for our children to attend school and their families and to thank everyone who has helped in any way thus far.”
Indigenous students in South Dakota have disproportionately lower graduation rates, grades, and social mobility than non-Indigenous students, and are disproportionately more disciplined in school. For years, these problems have gone largely unrecognized and not tackled without sustainable solutions, organizers say.
Although the primary function of the school is to build educational equity for Indigenous students, Osseti Sakowin is open to children of all races. Community school curricula combine required statewide content standards with indigenous cultures, languages, ancestral knowledge, history, and traditional lifestyles.
The main difference from a regular school is that it incorporates a foundational understanding of Ossety Sakowin, a state-recognized content standard covering the history, culture, language and land of Lakota.
State Senator Troy Heinert, D Mission spearheaded a mission to seek state funding for schools in Ossety Sakowin. He was successful in the state Senate, but the bill was blocked for the third time in 2022 by the state House of Representatives Education Committee.
“The hardest days I had in the legislature were when the bill was passed,” the visually emotional Heinert said on Tuesday. “We worked very hard.” I can’t thank you all enough… Over the years they have always tried to hold us back, but we are resilient people and their efforts are lacking. But I did it anyway.”
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South Dakota Education Equity Coalition Executive Director Sarah White said the opening of the Oceti Sakowin Community Academy is a historic day for Lakota culture and education.
“Today is a really powerful day, because once upon a time, our grandparents told us that we couldn’t go to a school like this because of a (different) culture. It was really hard,” says White. I got
“Today is the day we reject it and we can sit in the strength and courage of the first grandma and grandpa who were told this wasn’t important. We can take them all back and heal them.”
Nick Tilsen, president and CEO of NDN Collective and director of the Oceti Sakowin Community Academy, said his organization fully supports the school and the educational footprint it provides to future Indigenous leaders. I was.
“It’s important to understand that this is not just a school opening,” said Tilsen. “This act itself is an act of reestablishing a spiritual connection with our ancestors and passing on their teachings to our children.
“Education was used as a weapon — it was used as a weapon to attack our people. They ripped our children from our families in the evening. So today is a historic day, many years later we will look back on this day, many of these young people in this room, people will be the next leader.”
For more information about the Osseti Sakowin Community Academy, please visit https://ocetisakowinacademy.org/.