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By Rep. Richard “Tuffy” Lunderman

The education of Lakota students on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation is an important aspect in their very young lives, and it can carry an unforgettable, lifelong impact, if properly applied.

Unfortunately, the two educational systems we have been forced to comply with—federal (BIE) and public (state)—have consistently failed us.

Supporting statistical evidence is readily available for everyone to see, and yet the delivery of education has remained status quo. The same ineffective methods have been employed repeatedly since reservations were formed.

Of course, there have been some successes. But until success is redefined and models and methods are redeveloped and consistent with the new definition, or expectations, the successes will continue to be the exception and not the rule.

The rule will continue to be extraordinarily high dropout rates, low graduation, low proficiency, and other clear indicators.

The Todd County School District controls the education of a vast majority of tribal members on the reservation; and, quite frankly, I believe decisions made by its governing body invariably fall short of the best interests of the students, their families and their tribe.

For decades, I have heard the inevitable call for “Indians” in leadership positions, so they can be role models and visibly demonstrate to the next generation that we can succeed.

Presently, a tribal member sits at the helm of the TC school district administration, but is being removed. Removal is at the discretion of the school board, but such a decision should be relevant to the whole system, including classroom instruction. I don’t hear this, and the Board is reluctant toward openness.

I hope the school board responds favorably to my invitation to attend the next RST Education Committee meeting to begin collaboration, and to work cooperatively to honor, respect and apply the standards of education found in the RST Education Code.

If you live on this reservation, you necessarily live under tribal law. I have heard that the school board attorney has advised the board in the past that it doesn’t have to comply with the tribal code. It is most unfortunate that decision-makers responsible for educating tribal members would be so advised.

Change can be difficult, but it is time for change. I believe the governor of South Dakota recognizes the need for change and that status quo hasn’t, isn’t and doesn’t work, prompting him to proclaim, under an Executive Order, that a Native American Student Achievement Advisory Council will be established to examine the factors affecting student achievement; the effects of nontraditional schools on student achievement; methods of financing, establishing and authorizing nontraditional schools; and other related concerns, as determined by the advisory council.

Lack of concerned, properly-informed administrators, and instability in administrative leadership, is a serious issue limiting Lakota students from achieving an appropriate and relevant education.

Effective change CAN occur at the local level through the election process. There will be a TC school board election in June 2015, and it is time to elect school board representation capable of making decisions in the best interests of our local needs, who understand there are other educational models besides four walls and a ceiling.

The only requirement to vote in the TC school board election is that you are a registered voter, registered to vote in any South Dakota election. Be responsible, stand for your relative’s education, and this time, VOTE!

Thank you.

/s/ Rep. Richard Lunderman

Rosebud, S.D.

—Rep. Richard “Tuffy” Lunderman is serving his first term on the powerful Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council, representing Rosebud Community. He is up for reelection in 2015.


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