Canku Ota


(Many Paths)


An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


February 10, 2001 - Issue 29



School Offers Lakota Course


by Denise D. Tucker Argus Leader

LaToya Roubideaux is interested in learning a new language.

It's not Spanish, French or German, but one closer to home -- Lakota.

Roubideaux, from Winner, is attending a new Lakota studies class at Axtell Park Middle School in an attempt to learn more about the culture.

"I live with my grandparents and when they're talking to me in Indian, I don't know what they're saying. And then they have to say it again in English," said the seventh-grader. "Some parts of my family know the language. I want to learn more to know what they're talking about."

Through the Lakota Studies class, students learn the Lakota language and tribal and family history.

The course is a pilot program at Axtell Park, which started in October.

A similar class is offered at Lincoln High School. The curriculum was developed by Deb McIntyre, a diversity consultant from the Multi-Cultural Center and Tim Standing Soldier, a drug and alcohol counselor at Keystone Treatment Center in Canton.

The Indian Education Office of the Sioux Falls School District pays Standing Soldier an honorarium. In addition, the Sioux Falls Area Foundation has awarded a grant to help pay for student field trips to Mitchell, Vermillion and Pipestone, Minn.

Students also are assisting with the second annual Youth Pow Wow, which is scheduled for May 19 at Axtell Park.

The class is offered on Mondays and all sixth through ninth grade students -- regardless of race -- are eligible to attend. The students are released from their directive studies class to attend.

"The work coming out of the class will result in extra credit," McIntyre said.

Reservation schools offer classes like this, she said.

"The kids need to know the history of their people and that doesn't get addressed in South Dakota history," McIntyre said. "The kids should know the nine reservations and they should know the names of their ancestors. We are trying to provide a vehicle for things they're interested in."

About 60 American Indian students are enrolled at Axtell Park and half are participating in the program.

Axtell Park principal Steve Cain is pleased with the turnout.

"We are trying to offer the program so we can help our middle school age students get actively involved in learning about the Indian culture," he said.

Standing Soldier, who grew up on the Pine Ridge reservation, brings his personal experiences to the class.

"I have centuries of oral history. My grandpa taught it to me," he said. "Basically what I want is to teach them oral history. There are a lot of books written about our history, but it always has a slant to it."

Standing Soldier blames the boarding schools of the past for stripping away the American Indian culture.

"Now we have to teach it to them," he said, referring to the students. "We have to have them unlearn what they've learned about themselves and then teach them their culture.

He said a lot of what Indian students have been taught about themselves is derogatory.

"This is a foundation to open their eyes and to let them become a part of something."

The lessons Standing Soldier is teaching, he learned as a child. He has had to adjust how he dispenses the information to students today.

"It's like teaching driver's education, and you have to teach them what a car is," he said.

Eighth-grader John Abdo, an enrolled member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, was learning about his heritage from his grandparents. But, since he doesn't get to see them that often, Abdo has had to seek assistance from outside of his family.

"I'm interested in my culture. I just want to speak the language and stuff," he said. "I like the class."

Since he has been in the class, Abdo has been able to trace his lineage to Sitting Bull. A number of students have found similar connections.

"I'm very encouraged by what I see happening," said Marilyn Charging, supervisor of Indian education for the district.

And there is an added bonus.

"It's nice for them to see an Indian person in the classroom," Charging said.

Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation


Sioux Falls Indian Education Center


Sioux Falls Multicultural Center




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