To our Sioux Falls community,
On August 10, Mayor Paul TenHaken issued a proclamation designating the day as “Sioux Falls School District Day.” Falling on the same day as the Sioux Falls School District’s sesquicentennial, the proclamation was a tribute to the many employees and students who have been a part of the school system in the last 150 years.
Our school district has many significant accomplishments. But as it claims to be “rooted in the past, reaching for the future,” it cannot ignore Indigenous South Dakotans’ rich contributions to this state’s past and future. The Sioux Falls School District cannot be complicit in continued erasure of Indigenous populations.
On the same day of the celebration and the mayor’s proclamation, the Argus Leader published an article entitled “South Dakota DOE removed Indigenous topics from social studies standards before final draft.”
Written by Morgan Matzen, the article explores recent proposed changes to social studies classes in South Dakota. It notes that “department officials took out more than a dozen references to education on the Oceti Sakowin” and explains that the Oceti Sakowin are the “Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people who are indigenous to South Dakota and surrounding states.”
In the wake of news from across the country and continent that bodies of Indigenous youth have been discovered in mass graves at schools dating back 150+ years and the erasures of Indigenous culture that occurred in those school systems, this attempt by the Department of Education to further silence our Indigenous populations and their history is unacceptable.
The Department of Education and the Sioux Falls School District cannot ignore the needs of our Indigenous populations, and we as residents of Sioux Falls or members of the regional workforce must all note that this erasure impacts not just those involved in education as staff, faculty, families or students, but everyone in this state.
It is everyone’s responsibility as part of our diverse society to acknowledge the vitality of our Indigenous populations, their history in the region and their unique cultures and needs. We must all make a commitment to learn about, celebrate and partner with Indigenous persons in our workplaces, our educational spaces and our personal lives.
To members of the Oceti Sakowin, I say to you:
I see you. I hear you. I want to learn from and about you.
The Department of Education may try to erase the Oceti Sakowin from the text of a document, but this diverse group and their various cultures has not disappeared and must not be allowed to do so.
Member of Dakota Rural Action