Recent legislation in South Dakota is opening up opportunities for Indigenous students in South Dakota.
Thanks to the work of several policy and advocacy leaders in the state, including many LEE members and partners, Senate Bill 139A passed through the South Dakota State Education Committee and Senate this February, 2022. The Bill provides for the creation and funding of Oceti Sakowin community-based schools in South Dakota.
This legislation has been years in the making and has the potential to be a huge step forward for Native and Indigenous education in the state. Though ultimate passage through the House is uncertain — two similar prior bills were defeated in prior years — LEE members working for regional policy and advocacy remain optimistic and committed to advancing equity.
LEE Members Show Support at the Capitol
Using data from a recent position paper on the topic, LEE Member Abby Menter, offered testimony at the state legislature in support of greater access and opportunity for equitable education. Abby is also the co-chair of 4Rosebud and a Policy Policy Fellow through LEE at the NDN Collective.
The Bill’s language asserts, “An Oceti Sakowin community-based school … unites the most important influences in a student's life, including educational experiences, families, and communities, to create a support network that nurtures the student’s development toward productive adulthood. The school embraces and lifts the indigenous language of the community and incorporates four inter-connected support systems into one core structure.”
The four support systems the community-based school will provide are:
- A strong core instructional program to help each student meet high academic standards
- Enrichment activities designed to expand each student's learning opportunities and support cognitive, social, emotional, moral, and physical development.
- A range of health and mental health services designed to safeguard students’ well-being and remove barriers to learning.
- Indigenous language as the instructional language, to develop fluency and preserve language.
Research & Analysis into Indigenous Education Practices
Abby Menter and two fellow LEE members, Lauren Rykaczewski Carriere and Judith Escuin Checa, authored a position paper about Indigenous Education in South Dakota. Lauren is currently a Public Policy Fellow through LEE and Judith is a former Policy and Advocacy Summer Fellow through LEE. Working on behalf of the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Education Department and the South Dakota Educational Equity Coalition, these three leaders studied student outcomes in South Dakota and compared them to other states with large Indigenous populations. Their analysis and research revealed a lack of clear, state-level, Indigenous-informed approach to education, which they say has significant outcome gaps for Indigenous students.
To see the data and analysis, as well as the seven recommendations for improvement in South Dakota’s Indigenous education, check out Indigenous Education for the State of South Dakota.
We’re excited about what the future holds for students and educators in South Dakota with the passage of SB139A, and the many great leaders and organizations working to improve Indigenous education.
Learn How to Support Equitable Policies in Your Community
Whether you’re seeking to begin a career in policy and advocacy or become a stronger voice for equitable policies in your community, LEE offers a number of fellowships, training, and workshops that will help you build the skills and connections for the greatest impact in this work. LEE members can log-in to check-out LEE’s Policy Leadership Toolkit for more! Not yet a LEE member? Go to JoinLEE.org for registration information.