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SD Department of Education
Nov. 2021  
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Celebrating Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the cultures, traditions, and contributions of Native people. I want to take this opportunity to spotlight the tremendous resources we have in the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and Standards, which support instruction about South Dakota’s American Indian heritage and culture.

Oceti Sakowin [oh-CHEH-tee shaw-KOH-we] means “Seven Council Fires” and refers collectively to the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people. The OSEUs were developed by individuals from across South Dakota, including educators and experts in culture, history, oral traditions, and language.

There are seven essential understandings:
    1) Lands & Environment
    2) Identity & Resiliency
    3) Culture & Language
    4) Kinship & Harmony
    5) Oral Tradition & Story
    6) Sovereignty & Treaties
    7) Way of Life & Development

An in-depth set of instructional resources to support the teaching of the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and Standards was recently developed through collaboration of the South Dakota departments of Education and Tribal Relations, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Technology & Innovation in Education, the Red Cloud Indian School, the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Tribal Education Department, Rapid City Area Schools, and the Region 11 Comprehensive Center. This process took several years to develop.

Additionally, the WoLakota Project website, a collaborative effort of the South Dakota Department of Education and TIE, has many resources related to the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and Standards, including interviews with elders and exemplar lessons aligned to the state’s current social studies standards.

Incorporating these materials in classrooms creates a richer educational experience for all South Dakota students and strengthens appreciation for the more than 21,000 Native American students and their families in South Dakota’s schools.

On a personal note, thank you for all you do in our schools and for our young people. This year has presented its share of challenges and has meant many of you have filled in to teach other classes, helped serve food, drove bus, cleaned, or fulfilled a host of other duties as that’s been needed. All this while educating and supporting students and your colleagues. In this month of intentional gratitude, I give thanks for you. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. May the holiday bring rest and rejuvenation for the important work before us.


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