Lakota culture teachers discuss the importance of learning local Native American history and traditions



RAPID CITY, SD (KEVN) – A few weeks ago, Governor Kristi Noem decided to reignite the conversation about changing South Dakota’s social studies standards, potentially removing references to the state’s second population. .

In the middle of the reserve, a private school immerses its students in Native American culture.

“Being here at Red Cloud, their immersion classes and the Mackert School alone, they are very focused on the language, the culture, who they are and they speak Lakota most of the time in the other classes and here we let’s focus more on leading a healthy lifestyle through contemporary, historical and social songs and dances, ”said Jason Flags Jr., K-4 Lakota culture teacher at Red Cloud Indian School.

Between two reservations, a public school now offers its students the opportunity to discover the history and culture that surrounds them.

“We really use and allow the students to use the WoLakota project and we took it more as an open course where we learn together and we allow the students to control it in a way,” said DJ Toczek, the Lakota. culture teacher at Bennett County High School. “Maybe a bit like a college class.”

Jason Flags Jr. is a young adult Native American, distant from a generation of his grandfather who could not learn his own history and culture while in residential school.

Now the grandson takes this opportunity to teach what so many people could not learn in school.

“Going to school in Bennett County when I was young, the age of these guys, kindergarten through sixth grade, being able to do what I didn’t learn in school for the take and be able to bring it to school, to my own classroom and to have this space where I only had this space if I went to a sun dance, for me I’m very lucky to be in that position to do it, ”Flags continued.

New to Bennett County High School this year is an elective course in Lakota culture, which students of all races have enrolled in.

“The things most people don’t know when they’re in South Dakota is that there’s a lot of history, there’s a lot of recent history, but I think it’s important to learn about a variety of cultures, regardless of your culture or ethnicity. is, to learn as much as possible to make sure that you are a diverse and well-rounded individual, ”continued Toczek.

For both these educators and native descendants, the potential to overlook part of South Dakota and American history is “disheartening and unfair.”

“We have had a lot of major events that have happened here in this region that deserves state attention and deserves the attention of the whole country,” Toczek said.

“Being able to teach the truth of American history and the history of this land, and the history of all the people here, we can hug each other, kiss each other, kiss each other,” Flags concluded. “It does not belong to Native Americans, it is a human race, it is the story of a human being. And we are all human beings on this Earth.

India’s Red Cloud School is also working to expand the number of disappearing Lakota speakers through immersive classroom language and a comprehensive curriculum: Knowledgeable and Engaged Lakȟóta Leaders. With fewer than 6000 speakers fluent in Lakȟóta, there are few opportunities for young Lakóta to learn the language which is inextricably linked to their cultural heritage and identity. The first comprehensive K-12 Lakóta language program is now in its twelfth year and has improved academic performance and improved language skills at school and at home. Recent funding has helped support the development of Lakóta online multimedia tools, the creation of literature based on the Lakóta language for students and other practical opportunities to increase the use of the Lakóta language, ”said Rilda Means , with Red Cloud Indian School. “In September 2019, we announced the first Lakȟóta DualImmersion class for kindergarten students, where all subjects are taught in English and Lakȟóta, as they pass into 5th grade. To keep the language alive, over the past decade our staff, students and families have seen the positive impact of learning and practicing the Lakȟóta language. Students have developed a deeper connection to their culture and spiritual identity, which translates into extraordinary academic results. After only a few months of teaching, our kindergarten students are already reading, doing homework and singing songs in Lakȟóta! By 2023, every student attending Red Cloud’s K-5 classes will be taught using a curriculum translated into Lakóta and taught in the Lakȟóta language.

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