The movement for educational equity within Lakota communities in South Dakota is all about self-determination. Students and their families are leading the charge for sovereignty over the education system.
Nine sovereign Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota nations lie within the state borders of South Dakota. Despite genocidal policies that attack lives, land, language, and traditions, leaders within these nations protect and maintain the culture and sovereignty of the Oceti Sakowin.
These attacks led to the creation of the reservation system, where many indigenous families struggle with access to healthcare, housing, and employment, and the educational landscape is in stark contrast with that of the state's more affluent communities. Fewer than 10 percent of Native adults hold a bachelor's degree, and among students living on reservations, less than one in three reads on grade level. High school graduation rates hover around 50 percent. Yet these often-repeated statistics only tell part of the story. Tight-knit and family-oriented, indigenous communities in South Dakota continue the long work of liberation with humor, strength, and commitment to local visions of self-determination.
In 2004, Teach For America established a partnership with communities on the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Reservations with 17 corps members. Today, communities across Rosebud, Pine Ridge, and Standing Rock welcome 41 corps members. While tribal leadership and non-Native American organizations have a history of limited collaboration, growing community voices have affirmed the value of Teach For America teachers. Shoulder-to-shoulder with our community partners and 80 alumni leading efforts across the state, we're focused on college readiness and family engagement as critical ingredients to self-determination for all Lakota students.