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Rapid City Establishes First Lakota Immersion Kindergarten Program

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Dr. Lori J. Simon, Superintendent of RCAS and Dr. Valeriah Big Eagle, President of the Title VI Indian Education PAC.

The Rapid Area Schools launched its official Lakota Immersion Kindergarten Program at Canyon Lake Elementary.

Students in this program are taught completely in the Lakota language with an emphasis on Lakota culture, heritage and values. The goal is to grow the program each year.

Valeriah Big Eagle is the President of the Title VI  Indian Education Parent Advisory Committee. Her son is part of the inaugural class this fall. She says cultural-based education is empowering.

“You know, with my child, he can inherently be himself, indigenous, and he doesn't have to be afraid of who he is and where he comes from. I know that he wasn't really looking forward to school this year. We know that his identity, he had a troubling time, even in preschool with that. And last week when we came to help with the classroom and meet the teacher, I said, "Son, we're going to meet the teacher. Guess what? She's Lakota." And he said, Really?! Mom! Oh my goodness!"'

Canyon Lake Elementary was chosen because of its proximity to children who perished while at the boarding school.

“This plot of the school is on original Rapid City Indian Boarding School land, on the original trial 1200 acres. And we know that the children that passed away at Rapid City Boarding School, they're right here behind us, on this hill up here, we know so far there are 50 children up there.

A bill introduced in the South Dakota State Senate to enable the creation of four schools to teach Oceti Sakowin values was killed in the Senate earlier this year.