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Office of Indian Education to remain separated from wider DoE

Brent Duerre

SB157 reverts the 2019 department change for OIE. Mission Democratic Sen. Shawn Bordeaux brought the bill to improve education for tribal students.

Members of the state’s education administration opposed the bill. OIE education director Fred Osborn said the system provides native communities more access than in the past.

“The Office of Indian Education is tasked by statute with supporting initiatives in order that South Dakota students and public-school instructional staff become aware of and gain an appreciation of South Dakota’s unique American Indian culture,” Osborn said.

Newly published online resources were rolled out last week to help non-native educators receive a baseline in the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings, a curriculum widely supported in native communities. Bordeaux said tribal leaders haven’t seen forward motion under the current setup.

“I’m curious how saturated we are into the public schools," Bordeaux said. "Why isn’t this stuff integrated in our curriculum? Why is it so hard to get them into the 20-some tribal schools? I’m here to suggest we have a lot of stuff going on, but it’s not really moving in the right direction.”

At an open forum in Lower Brule, tribal education leaders spoke at length about the placement of OIE, which Bordeaux said inspired this bill.

“We’re concerned about whether various matrixes are being developed to assess how well the office is doing and how well those programs and services are meeting the expectation of the tribal education departments across the state,” Bordeaux said.

The bill was defeated on a 4-3 vote in the Senate Education Committee.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture