Tribal Students Need Relevant Education

Constitution Picture

Recently, my Takoja came home from school and asked me if George Washington was white. A strange question, but since it is February I figured the class was learning about US Presidents. So I told him, yes George Washington was white. Then I asked my Takoja if he knew who the President of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe was. He couldn’t answer.

Our local schools are failing our children by not including material relevant to their lives as tribal citizens. Students who live on the reservation need to learn about everyday issues that apply to them as tribal citizens, including their own tribal government. If the local public and tribal schools offers lessons on US history, which teaches our children all about US Presidents, they also need to include tribal history.

Many Lakota people who grow up on our homelands often choose to stay here. We might attend an off-reservation college or university, but many of us return to the area where we grew up. We have to know the history of our homelands. We have to learn about our tribal government. We have to learn about our own Lakota culture.

Teaching our students only about the relevance of the US government and their history is an incomplete education. Our Lakota students should know about tribal government when they graduate from high school. Unfortunately, many high school graduates have no idea of what their own tribal government does.

I am sure there are a few local teachers who incorporate tribal government, history and cultural information into their lessons. But they are the exception. Most of the teachers working in our homelands did not grow up here. They do not understand the relevance of including teachings about the Lakota people to Lakota students.

Our students should be exposed to basic lessons about tribal government beginning in Kindergarten. An idea Lakota curriculum would include lessons about the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act. Our elementary, middle and high school students should also be studying the Constitution and By-Laws of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, which was adopted in 1934; learning about the subsequent amendments to our Constitution and By-Laws is also important.

Additional curriculum should include studying the Corporate Charter of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, as well as the amendments to this document. The Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934 is an important piece of legislation that has affected us for the last 82 years. Our students should be learning about the original IRA as well as amendments made to this document.

In addition, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe has established numerous resolutions, ordinances and codes. Again, our local students graduate from high school without knowing much about their own tribal government. Our tribal government could operate much better if our young people were educated about how the system works. Our educational systems have failed us as Lakota people because of the limited curriculum covering the historical and contemporary governance systems which apply to us.

Also, many of our tribal students might have learned about what the stars and stripes represent on the American flag. Yet, many do not have any idea what the symbols on the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Flag represent.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe has elected 40 Presidents since the IRA was incorporated. Our children know who George Washington was, but the majority of them do not know who the first President of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe was. Many of our Lakota students, like my Takoja, cannot tell you who the current President of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe is.

Our students can succeed when what they learn is meaningful to them. It wouldn’t take much to incorporate lessons surrounding the Rosebud Sioux Tribe into the local schools’ curriculum. I challenge the school board members, administrators and teachers at the St. Francis Indian School and the Todd County School District to provide more curriculum on local tribal government to the K-12 students currently attending our local schools. After all, they are our future leaders.

Our schools are there to educate our children. I believe they have a responsibility to provide our Lakota students with a relevant education about how their own tribal government operates.

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