As the end of another academic school year comes to a close, I want to address the importance of education. Learning is a never ending process. I was always encouraged by family and educators to stay in school when I was young. We are never too old to learn something new.
Today, we listen to parents, tribal officials, community members and school personnel harp on students about how extremely important education is to our people. We encourage our young people to finish high school. We push our young people to pursue college degrees after they graduate from high school. We tell them that a college degree is something that can never be taken away from you.
Still, I see many Lakota people who have worked diligently to earn higher education degrees pushed out of jobs they are highly qualified for by disgruntled community members. What is the point of becoming a college educated Lakota if you are only going to be pushed out by your own people? Sometimes I wonder if the high drop-out rate on the Rez is due to our young people watching educated adults let go from the jobs they worked so hard to get.
We tell our children to go off to college to earn a degree. We encourage them to be role models by staying in school. We also tell them to come home and work for us so other young people can perhaps have a better way of life. After all, who better to lead us than our own people, right?
Yet, I am pondering what to tell my Takoja when they graduate from college with a degree they worked very hard to earn. Should I encourage them to apply for local jobs? I really don’t know. Maybe I should tell them to find jobs far away from their homelands so they will have a better chance of holding that job. I have witnessed so many educated Sicangu people being run off or fired from jobs they are highly qualified for. The worst part of all this is the power to hire and fire is usually placed in the hands of uneducated people.
That is, these people who are in charge of determining who is hired or fired for jobs requiring a college degree are generally not educated people. Many of them never attended college. The only education they have pursued and excelled at are the everyday lessons on how to play politics. And most of the political education on the Rez is driven by the crab-in-a-bucket mentality.
Do we want our children to be college educated or politically educated? When you are politically educated, most of your decisions are based on ego. You listen to your constituents complain about things that have happened in their lives and you make a decision, which affects many people, based on what you think your constituents want or, even worse, on what your ego dictates to you. When you work from an egotistical mentality, everyone you are supposed to be working for loses.
The following two paragraphs are excerpts from the January 12, 2015 Todd County School Board minutes: “Moved by DeAnn Eastman-Jansen, seconded by Travis Wooden Knife, to renew the Superintendent’s (Dr. Roger Bordeaux) contract effective July 1, 2015. Motion failed with a vote of 2-3, with Lavern Lanz, Charlie Moe and Melissa Whipple voting no.”
“Moved by Lavern Lanz, seconded by Melissa Whipple and carried to non-renew the Superintendent’s (Dr. Roger Bordeaux) contract, effective June 30, 2015. Motion carried with a vote of 3-2, with DeAnn Eastman-Jansen and Travis Wooden Knife voting no.”
Todd County School District is a public school funded by the State of South Dakota. The school district is located on the Rosebud Reservation. The majority of the students enrolled in the TCSD are Sicangu Lakota. So, it’s a real slap in the face to all of us when a handful of school board members asserts a hidden agenda and votes to fire a highly qualified Sicangu Lakota educator.
I don’t think it is right that he didn’t have his contract renewed. But that’s what happens when people armed with a political education are voted into seats of power. They vote from ego. They have pushed out one of our most highly educated Sicangu Lakota people. Yet, that’s what happens when the people in charge are motivated by a political education rather than a college education. It’s a great example of personal ego in action.
Unfortunately, our children on the Rosebud have witnessed yet another real life example of why it doesn’t matter if you stay in school or not. The politically educated people in power will always vote their ego. They will always vote to pull you down, despite how hard you’ve worked to earn a college degree so you could come home and help your own children.
The Sicangu Lakota have lost Dr. Bordeaux’s skills as an Indian Educator. He has dedicated his life to improving educational systems for Indian children all across Indian Country. I join the Sicangu Lakota Oyate in wishing him well in his future endeavors.
Please be sure to vote for college educated people who have the best interest of our Sicangu Lakota students in mind during the next Todd County School Board election.