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students want “genuine and meaningful” inclusion of Oceti Sakowin culture in state standards | Education

Along with her grandparents, Sho-Shanna Piper discovered that history can be nourishing.

“They taught me, my cousins ​​and my friends, the history of the Lakota,” said Piper, a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe and a sophomore at Rapid City High School. “They took us to the sun dances… They told us stories, taught us what they were doing at the time. They would tell us where we came from.

These are the kinds of lessons that helped instill in Piper a love for her culture. And that love of culture made the removal of native terms from a South Dakota social studies standards project – for periodic review – particularly disturbing to Piper.

She decided to take action.

She raised the issue at a Rapid City Youth Council meeting last fall. Piper, who has been on the board for about a year, orchestrated an effort to send a memorandum to several state offices stressing the importance of the specific inclusion of the Oceti Sakowin culture in the standards as the review process state is still ongoing.

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The memorandum is addressed to the South Dakota Education Standards Board, the Social Studies Standards Review Board, and the Department of Education.

Rapid City’s Legal and Finance Committee on Wednesday voted 2-1 in favor of a request to send the memorandum. Council member Lance Lehmann opposed the measure but said: “I actually think the premise is wonderful, but I will be voting no on this today simply because I don’t think the city should be. an advocacy group “.

The measure is now transferred to city council, where members will vote on Monday to approve or not the sending of the note. The Youth City Council is officially a committee of the Quick City Council, and therefore the approval of the larger council is needed for this action.

The memo, about two and a half pages long, reaches a sort of crescendo towards the end.

“The Rapid City Youth Council encourages those collectively responsible for this matter,” he said, “to ensure that Oceti Sakowin’s essential understandings and standards are authentically and meaningfully included in the standards of South Dakota Social Studies.

As reported earlier this year, several references to education related to the Oceti Sakowin were removed from a draft state social studies standards during a review process. South Dakota Education Secretary Tiffany Sanderson defended the revisions late last summer.

“We have made recommendations or revisions to the task force recommendation to ensure that schools have the capacity to teach all of the cultures that make up the fabric of South Dakota, including our Native American people or Oceti Sakowin, the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota in South Dakota, ”Sanderson told the state legislature’s joint appropriation committee in August.

A little over a month later, after much public comment and a demonstration to Pierre by the South Dakota Education Equity Coalition and the NDN Collective, Governor Kristi Noem made an announcement regarding the revised social studies standards of the state.

“I have asked the Ministry of Education to start the process over from the beginning,” she said in October. “I want to make sure that we come up with standards that accurately reflect South Dakota’s values ​​… There is still work to be done to get it right, and we are committed to seeing that process through.”

It is against this background, while the process of developing social studies standards is still ongoing, that the Rapid City Youth Council is working to send out its memorandum.

“There aren’t a lot of Lakota speakers, and my generation and the next are slowly losing interest and not learning (the language),” Piper said. “I think it’s very important to teach students at a young age. I think it’s important for my culture and for other cultures.

The specific focus on Indigenous culture, Piper said, can also help students who are not of Indigenous descent deepen their pool of historical knowledge – and also facilitate more harmonious relationships between students from different backgrounds.

“Other children can learn what we went through as the settlers arrived,” she said. She also suggested that learning about Indigenous culture can also create better understanding among students.

“Most people don’t know why we keep our hair long,” she said. “Our hair is very sacred, and ultimately it is very important to us.”

While Piper is eager to share stories from her culture with others, she is also eager to absorb as many stories as possible, both inside and outside of her heritage.

“I like cultural subjects,” she says. “I study a lot of other subjects on my own. I am studying Greek mythology. I study other parts of the world on my own because I find them very interesting to discover.

Tae Swanson, secretary of the city youth council, on Wednesday presented the proposal to send the note to the legal and finance committee, along with Dhruv Goyal, another member of the city youth council.

Swanson, a student at Stevens High School, said Piper brought the issue to the attention of the City Youth Council.

“We believe, especially as young people who attend the school system, that the history of the Lakota should be taught in schools because it is a part of the history of the United States and a particularly important part of the history of the United States. South Dakota, ”Swanson said.

After the meeting, the two youth council members reflected on the measure.

“For our Lakota friends and neighbors it is very important that they are represented,” Swanson said. “It makes it easier for them to go to school. It makes the experience of their community much easier. It makes them feel more included in our city, which is always very important. “

Goyal, a junior at St. Thomas More High School, described the importance of using specific Aboriginal names in standards, rather than generic terms such as “culture.”

“If you want to talk about European culture, we can write it down. But when we want to talk about Lakota… we should mention Lakota, ”Goyal said. “Otherwise, it’s just a general population that’s going to be mixed up and thrown away. “

Sean Binder, an adult mentor for the City Youth Council, noted some of the unique powers students bring to discussions like this. He said that students “teach us to rule” in the way they follow their beliefs and put those beliefs into action.

“They don’t wait for the paperwork,” he said. “They don’t even see the paperwork.”

Binder is also a teacher, counselor and internship coordinator for Rapid City High School.

Kristin Kiner, also an adult mentor for the Youth City Council, observed how the council’s collective actions tended to build student confidence.

“The more informed they are, the stronger their voice (and the more they trust),” said Kiner, youth engagement coordinator for Rapid City Area Schools / Teen Up.

Eighteen students sit on the council. Kiner said the president and vice-president of the youth council were part of the selection committee, along with the adults in the community.

Kiner also highlighted how contact with other students can fuel students’ efforts to create change.

“It’s easier together,” she said. “It’s easier to move forward together creating change and advocating than doing it alone. “

Piper noted that working through the youth council helped her discover that other students shared her perspective on standards – especially once they started discussing the issue.

“I know several other members of the youth city council who agree with me and want this to happen as well,” she said. “I was pretty shocked. I thought no one would find this interesting, but the whole board did.

The memorandum is signed by Rapid City Youth Council President Sadie Colbeck, Vice President Kiran Kelly and Secretary Tae Swanson.

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