RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — The Lakota Immersion Program is underway at the Rapid City Schools. It’s a classroom where students learn about the Lakota culture.
Valeriah Big Eagle says her son has never been so excited for school.
“So how he explains it to me, he’s like, ‘Mom, I just sing and dance, powwow all day!’ He doesn’t understand what that means quite yet, but to me, that’s my son telling me, ‘Mom, I can be me, I’m proud to be who I am.’ And to me that’s everything,” Big Eagle said.
Big Eagle says because her son is able to feel more like himself, he is able to learn more.
“He is going to be English and Lakota speaking. And just pursuing his education beyond, I just know he’s going to be okay and he’s going to tap into that resiliency and that indigenous gene is within him,” Big Eagle said.
Right now, there are 14 students participating in the Lakota Immersion Program here at Canyon Lake Elementary.
Principal David Swank says there have been a few challenges.
“We’re piecing the curriculum together as we go a little bit. We have a general skeleton of what we want kids to learn and know and be able to do and that very much mirrors the regular curriculum in our district but there’s that culture and language element layered over it so we are figuring out how that best fits together,” Swank said.
Swank says the program is going well, and he’s looking forward to its future in the Rapid City Schools.
“One of the things we are looking at long-term is fluency by fourth grade, so creating the future generation of Lakota Language speakers,” Swank said.
The Rapid City School District will grow a new Lakota immersion classroom each year after this pilot year.