Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Spreading awareness in schools about South Dakota’s American Indian culture

By Fred Osborne, Director, South Dakota Office of Indian Education 

The South Dakota Office of Indian Education and the Wóokiye Project, a Bush Foundation grant project, would like to share some of our upcoming events and initiatives.

One of our primary goals is to spread awareness and education in schools about South Dakota’s unique American Indian culture. We are in the process of sending educational kits promoting the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and Standards to every school across the state.

Grade schools have received a copy of Muskrat and Skunk by Donald F. Montileaux. The book provides an illustrated story of the origin of the Lakota drum in the Oceti Sakowin culture. Muskrat and Skunk is written in both English and Lakota to give a language and cultural experience to children.

Middle and high schools will receive copies of The Lakota Way by Joseph M. Marshall III. Through traditional stories, the book provides a deeper understanding of the 12 Lakota virtues that are crucial to the Lakota way of living: bravery, fortitude, generosity, wisdom, respect, honor, perseverance, love, humility, sacrifice, truth, and compassion.

Additionally, schools received two sets of poster maps and magnets representing all nine reservations in South Dakota, as well as information on Native titles and educational kits available from the South Dakota State Historical Society. Using the maps and magnets, students are able to identify and locate reservations and their locations using an interactive teaching tool.

Through these educational kits, we aim to provide students with more insight and knowledge about the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota history and culture. Coupled with the Lakota Virtue Videos told by Lakota and Dakota elders, available free through our office, teachers have useful resources to engage student learning of the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and Standards.

Each year, we host an annual summit for educators and students to learn more about tools and resources to ensure that today’s Native youth can achieve success both in school and in society. The Office of Indian Education will host the 2023 South Dakota Indian Education Summit Nov. 16-18 at the Crossroads Event Center in Huron. The summit will kick off on Thursday, Nov. 16, and continue into the weekend for a youth day on Saturday, Nov. 18. Youth Day is designed for K-12 students. Please visit our website for more information about the summit.

For those who have not visited our website, I encourage you to do so. We have abundant resources including lesson plans, videos, scholarships, and much more.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Making local food part of education in South Dakota

October is Farm to School Month, and with South Dakota’s deep agricultural roots, there’s no better place to celebrate.

The South Dakota Department of Education’s (DOE) Child and Nutrition Services (CANS) is working to help schools make local food a part of education for South Dakota’s kids. The Farm to School effort seeks to bring together agricultural producers and education providers for three main purposes: 

  • to educate children on where food comes from and the benefits of eating local food, 
  • to maintain strong connections between youth and agriculture, and
  • to offer opportunities for local producers and those involved in food programs to network and find opportunities to educate and feed our students with food grown in South Dakota.

Educators have lots of opportunities to be involved in Farm to School. Their curriculum, especially in science and math, can incorporate local foods. There are educational opportunities for students from preschool to high school. Field trips, tasting activities, cooking classes, in-school gardens, and school visits from farmers and master gardeners are just some of the ways that educators can teach youth about food production.

Farm to School is a win-win for students/schools, producers, and the community.

Ultimately, South Dakota’s Farm to School efforts will be successful when school cafeteria food comes as much as possible from producers within the state, and those eating the food understand and appreciate the hard work of those South Dakota farmers and ranchers who grow the food that the world consumes.

Earlier this summer, a group of stakeholders helped to develop goals for growing Farm to School in South Dakota. See the results of their work.

Janelle Peterson
Child and Adult Nutrition Services, South Dakota Department of Education 

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Welcome Back to School

One pretty clear indication that I chose the right profession is my feeling about the first day of school. The day you walk in the building and that wonderful amalgam of smells—floor wax, dry erase marker, new bookbag, and school breakfast—coalesce to evoke just one beautiful thought: school!

In my day, it was the smell of Elmer’s paste (that company’s glue just doesn’t have the same effervescence) that triggered a clamoring for school, but that different bouquet led to the same end, an acceptance of, and excitement for, a new academic year.

Even better than the fragrance of a new school year is the promise of one. This could be the year we turn the corner on elevated levels of absenteeism. The year literacy proficiencies leap forward as the result of a renewed application of the principles of the Science of Reading. The year the varsity football and volleyball teams grab state championships. The year that heals some of the old wounds from the painful COVID years, that changes the ache to a tingle. The year that we make a difference in one more student, one more athlete, one more musician, one more thespian, one more child.

It's the 4th of July, Christmas, your birthday, and Opening Day all rolled into one. And we have the privilege of working with South Dakota’s children, those whom parents place in our care and in our trust.

Dr. Joseph GraveWe are a blessed band working in a blessed profession. 

May 2023-24 fulfill every potential and every promise.



Dr. Joseph Graves

South Dakota Department of Education 

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Teacher Appreciation Week Communique from the Secretary’s Office

Four months ago, I left my school district—Mitchell—where I had served as superintendent for more than 23 years.  When I did so, I knew there were going to be some things I missed.  The students, first and foremost.  All the people I worked with.  All the sights and sounds of working in a school—the bells, the delightful squeals and chatter of a grade school playground, a freshly waxed terrazzo floor.

The best part was all those parents and local restaurants and insurance companies and PTAs who went to all that work, not because they didn’t think we had enough to eat, but because it was their way of showing just how much they really appreciate all of you.

Couple that with the knowledge that what you do is meaningful, that you make a genuine difference in the lives of children, and you wind up with a recipe for not just feeling appreciated but being genuinely worthy of appreciation.

Not half bad on a sunny day in May, the end of the academic year approaching, snow and ice safely in the past, and a nicely frosted cookie in the shape of an apple just waiting for you.

Dr. Joseph Graves

Secretary of Education

Monday, January 30, 2023

Gov. Kristi Noem proclaims Feb. 6-10 School Counseling Week in South Dakota

Executive Proclamation

Whereas, school counselors are employed in schools to help students reach their full potential; and,

Whereas, school counselors are committed to helping students explore their abilities, strengths, interests, and talents as these traits relate to career awareness and development; and,

Whereas, school counselors partner with parents to further the educational and personal growth of their children; and,

Whereas, school counselors work with teachers and other educators to help students succeed in school and set realistic goals for themselves; and,

Whereas, school counselors identify and utilize community resources that can enhance and complement comprehensive school counseling programs to assist students in becoming productive members of society; and,

Whereas, comprehensive school counseling programs are considered an integral part of the educational process:

Now, Therefore, I, Kristi Noem, Governor of the State of South Dakota, do hereby proclaim the week of February 6, 2023, as 

School Counseling Week 

in South Dakota.