RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — The Rapid City Area School District launched its first ever Lakota Language Immersion program today.
Valeriah Bald Eagle says her son has already been telling her how excited he is to start school next week at Canyon Lake Elementary.
“I said, ‘Son, also your classmates, you’re going be learning Lakota and your culture is going to be surrounded, you’re going to be always immersed in that,’ and he said, ‘Mom, so does that mean I get to wear my Wapasha?'” Valeriah Bald Eagle said.
Teachers, staff, parents and students came together today to launch the Lakota Language Immersion Program.
22 Kindergarteners from the Rapid City School District will be using this room for the Lakota Culture Immersion Program.
“And I can’t wait to come see them on the first day of school and see things in action and visit throughout the course of the school year,” Simon said.
Superintendent Lori Simon says more than one in three Rapid City students are part of the native community. She says helping students discover their identity and learn more about the Lakota culture will improve their educational outcomes.
“Decades ago, there were public boarding schools that had the goal of stripping Indian children of their language and their culture and their identity. I feel as though we have come full circle in working with our native community to bring back and start reintroducing that language and culture revitalization,” Simon said.
Parents, including Bald Eagle, say this is a very exciting time for the Rapid City community.
“We did have to fight tooth and nail for it to come to fruition, but it’s here. With my child, he can inherently be himself, indigenous. He doesn’t have to be afraid of who he is and where he comes from,” Valeriah Bald Eagle said.
The Rapid City School District will grow a new Lakota Language immersion classroom each year after this pilot year.