Native Americans Tell Duncan About the Need for Reform

Arne is honored to receive a star quilt from Rosebud Elementary School.

Arne is honored to receive a star quilt from Rosebud Elementary School.

Todd County high school student body president Grace One Star spoke eloquently during a meeting with education leaders concerned about American Indian achievement.

“It’s the lack of hope around us that makes us turn to gangs and the bad things some of us get involved in,” Grace said during the Aug. 26 Rural and Indian Education Roundtable at Rosebud Elementary in the Black Hills of South Dakota “We need our teachers and leaders to bring us hope, not more brand new textbooks.”

During the discussion, teachers, leaders, and families from rural areas spoke about issues of extreme poverty, unemployment, and the heartbreaking loss of culture and language taking place on the reservations. In particular, they spoke about the challenge of recruiting and retaining quality teachers and leaders in their economically depressed and remote area.

Secretary Arne Duncan listened and affirmed the need for the federal government to increase their interest in education on Reservation schools, and for the schools to help retain the native language and culture and to recruit and retain great teachers and leaders.

After participating in the roundtable discussion, Duncan attended the commencement at Sinte Gleska University in Mission, South Dakota. It was the first time that a U.S. Secretary of Education has given the commencement address at a Tribally Controlled University.

As Secretary Duncan and other state and federal officials entered the room, a drum circle and tribal royalty danced them in. Duncan welcomed the crowd in Lakota, the native language of the Rosebud Sioux people, and spoke about the importance of the Four Virtues of the Lakota: Wisdom, Bravery, Fortitude, and Generosity. “Education is the key to Lakota future,” Duncan said. “The Lakota must speak the Lakota vision.”

Sharla Steever

Sharla Steever is a Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow from Hill City, South Dakota.

Link to the Rural Education Resource Center