Native American heritage life


MARTY, S.D. (KELO) – November is Native American Heritage month, but on South Dakota’s reservations, that heritage is practiced and celebrated every day of the year.

Teaching the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota language is just one way the Marty Indian School keeps Native American heritage alive every day.

“We’re very proud that the identity of our young Native American learners, the Ihanktonwan relatives are learning who they are,” Glenn Drapeau, the Dakota Language Department director, said.

Their Indigenous culture is also incorporated into the core classes like science.

“Our children and including myself are natural scientists because that is the way that our people survived for hundreds of years,” Frances Bullshoe, the middle school science teacher, said. “They were in touch with nature, they knew where to camp in the winter, they knew where to camp in the summer for the food resources.”

Marty Indian School has a history that dates back to the 1940s when the church ran it as a boarding school. The Yankton Sioux Tribe took it over in the 70s.

“A turnaround, a 360 turnaround from a mentality that’s been there that we face each day in our lives,” Robert Flying Hawk, Chairman of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, said. “To take us from our homes, from our lands and to place us in an institution where our hair was cut, our values, our life ways were looked down upon.”

“The institution of education was the tool used to eliminate that identity, eliminate the language, eliminate their heritage,” Drapeau said. “Now we’re using that same tool to put that back in there and that makes me feel good.”

The education buildings are newer to campus, but the old dormitories are still used to house students. On average, students from 12 different reservations come to learn each year in Marty.

Celebrating, learning and living Native American heritage, not just in November, but every day of the year.

“All the Dakota, Lakota, Nakota peoples, we’re still here,” Drapeau said. “Just because we’re not wearing eagle feather bonnets and we’re not wearing buckskin, it doesn’t mean that we’re not Ihanktonwan.”

“I come into this school and that spirit is unlimited,” Flying Hawk said. “It goes forward, it’s supported, it’s encouraged and it just emits from each child and from them as a group of children. So it’s a good energy.”

On top of their state requirements, students at Marty Indian School must take Dakota Language one and two, Indian Studies and Tribal Government classes in order to graduate.

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