Feb 25, 2021
Championing Indigenous students to be successful in school systems starts with school curriculums – telling the accurate history of the United States – and leadership that represents the Indigenous Americans they serve. Schools need to create spaces where Indigenous students can be unapologetically Indigenous by building immersion units and hiring Indigenous teachers. Most importantly, Native leaders, educators, and students need to be involved in each step of the process.
The US education system was built to eliminate the Indigenous, and curriculum choice continues to perpetuate the silencing and erasure of Indigenous history. As a result, Native students are often subjected to discrimination by white teachers and administrators, and suffer high disciplinary rates. Native students in South Dakota today have one of the lowest achievement rates, graduation rates, and even mobility rates. Though they add up to about 10% of South Dakota public school students, only 1.6% of staff is Indigenous.
Starting in 1868, Western education was imposed on Native Americans. Children were forcibly taken and put in boarding schools. Native elders refer to this now-abandoned practice as the "severing of the sacred loop." The goal was to "tolerate" or assimilate Indigenous students, removing them from their cultures and ways of life. Trauma has been the biggest repercussion of the boarding school movement, and the current education system has failed the Indigenous for generations.
Sarah Pierce, Director of Education Equity at NDN Collective, is Oglala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Pierce has 8 years of experience working and advocating for Title VI Indian Education Programs, working at Rapid City Area Schools in South Dakota and at Omaha Public Schools in Nebraska. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a master’s in education degree from Creighton University, and a PK-12 Administrator endorsement from the University of South Dakota. Pierce will lead NDN Collective’s education equity campaign work, expanding opportunities for Native American students to have access to culturally relevant and culturally responsive learning environments.
Amy Sazue, NDN Collective Organizer, is Sicangu and Oglala Lakota, and an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. She is a teacher and program coordinator, and also has experience working in development. She has associate degrees from Bay Mills Community College in Education, a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Oglala Lakota College, and is currently working on a master’s degree in Nonprofit Management and Leadership through Arizona State University.
You can follow NDN Collective on Twitter @ndncollective.