SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — As the public comment period for South Dakota’s social studies standards draws to a close, opposition continues to pour in. This time, from South Dakota’s tribal education directors.
This week, the South Dakota Education Equity Coalition in solidarity with all nine tribes released a statement calling for the reinstatement of Oceti Sakowin references in the current draft. In 2021, a workgroup of 44 educators, tribal leaders and other stakeholders created a draft of the standards that incorporated the Oceti Sakowin standards throughout K-12 courses. Sherry Johnson, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate education director, was a part of that initial work group.
“Our intent was that we include at least one Native standard under each grade level,” Johnson told KELOLAND News. “And then they took it and rewrote the whole narrative.”
In 2022, a new version of the standards was released and while public comment has largely focused on issues with memorization and the geography standards, tribal education directors like Johnson are still concerned with the Oceti Sakowin standards saying they leave out large swaths of Indigenous history.
“There’s whole spans, hundreds of years have gone by and we’re not even mentioned. It’s like we cease to exist during huge periods of time,” Johnson said.
While the 2022 workgroup attempted to include more Indigenous voices, Johnson said that unlike the collaboration between the schools and the tribes, there has been little consultation between the tribes and the state when it comes to Oceti Sakowin standards.
“Most of these schools are all providing tribal consultation to our schools in the format that our tribes have set up, but the state doesn’t do that. They had, they had at one point and they just quit. And so there really is not any consultation on any of these things… We have a Secretary of Tribal Relations and Director of Indian education that don’t even consult with the tribes and don’t work with us,” Johnson said.
Fred Osborn, director of the South Dakota Office of Indian Education, was a work group member on the 2022 standards and told KELOLAND News in September that the new draft “advance the learning of Native American history and culture.” South Dakota Department of Tribal Relations Secretary David Flute also spoke in favor of the inclusion of Oceti Sakowin standards.
“I found a well-balanced, inclusive and honest history of Native peoples in South Dakota,” Flute said in September.
KELOLAND News reached out to Osborn for this story but never received a response.
Johnson and the other tribal education directors are clear on what they want: discard standards created by William Morrisey of Hillsdale College and return to the initial standards draft created by the 44-person work group made up of South Dakota educators.
“Our South Dakota funding has poorly spent money to William Morrisey for this and I think that was a bad decision; it was not appropriate,” Johnson said.
Johnson is gearing up to testify in the final April 17 public hearing having testified at the Aberdeen and Sioux Falls hearings.
“The proponents (for the standards) are from out of state. I mean, you’ve got very few proponents [that] are coming forth and now they’re bringing in big ticket names to say that and they don’t have eggs in this basket,” Johnson said.
Of the 1,094 comments submitted on the standards, 117 have been in favor, 37 were neutral and 940 were opposed the standards.