USA: A Waldorf School for Native Americans

November 2012

The Lakota Waldorf School is a small school in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The school was founded in 1993 by a group of Lakota/Sioux parents who were concerned about their children’s education. Currently, about 20 children attend the kindergarten and a first grade is expected to be established in 2012. 
 The aim is to establish a future-oriented school for the Lakota children, based on their own culture and language.

It is the land of Crazy Horse and Bull Bear, but also the land of tragic events such as the massacre and the occupation of “Wounded Knee”. The Pine Ridge Reservation in southwestern South Dakota is the second largest Indian Reservation in the United States. The vast prairie landscape has always been the home of the Lakota Indians (also known as Sioux), of which 42’000 tribe members still live there today. The Pine Ridge Reservation is one of the poorest regions of the United States, with an average annual income of $ 3,400 and an unemployment rate of 80-90 percent.

Until 1976 the American government banned the performance of any Native American ceremonies whatsoever. The consequences were a loss of identity and depression, which resulted mostly in resignation and alcoholism. 

In 1993 a group of concerned parents gathered, to discuss the future of their children. Soon after, they decided to take the issue into their own hands and thus founded a school. After various school models were discussed, the Lakota decided to follow the guidelines of Waldorf education. In it they found parallels to their own culture, such as the holistic image of the human being, the unity between nature and man, the rhythm of life, the importance of storytelling, especially for small children. Today, the values of the Lakota are included in class at the Waldorf school and the children especially learn how to fluently communicate in English, as well as in their Native language.

“I teach the children the four virtues of our culture: respect (wao’hola), generosity (wacanteognake), courage (wo ohitika) and wisdom (woksape). I started with the first, the respect. The children should learn to respect themselves and others. Every morning we go up the hill behind the kindergarten to pray. We thank the Creator for the new day. This is also the place where I take the children, in order to tell them stories about the sun, the moon and the stars.” – These are the words of Verola Spider, describing her work as a kindergarten teacher at Lakota Waldorf School. Like the other members of the tribe she also has a Lakota name: “Wa Onsila Winyan”, which means “charming”, “gracious” woman. 

Today, the Lakota Waldorf School is well on its way and the board is working hard to open a first grade in 2012. In order to reduce the dependency on donations and foundations, Lakota Waldorf School has established Lakota Tipi Camp, a touristic offering, which may develop into a source of income for the school). As for now the school does not charge school fees and therefore remains dependent on donations and support.

Source: Friends of Waldorf Education


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