Indigenous erasure: The battle for inclusive state standards in South Dakota

Sherry Johnson, tribal education director for the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, an Oceti Sakowin treaty tribe, talks about the efforts to have South Dakota’s students learn about Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota history and culture. South Dakota’s right wing governor and her appointees have rejected state standards that include critical thinking and accurate state history, sparking strong resistance.


00:00-01:57 Intros, Oceti Sakowin

01:57-05:52 South Dakota social studies standards development process

05:52-14:14 What happened during the development process and after the proposed standards were submitted; erasure of Natives from the standards; strong protests

14:14-15:50 Removal of critical thinking; mention of “culture” forbidden

15:50-17:07 Political context

17:07-20:01 Denial of opportunity to teach true history

20:01-21:07 Effects of protests

21:07-22:50 Resistance to mandating Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings as part of standards

22:50-25:18 Transfer of the Office of Indian Education from Department of Education to Office of Tribal Affairs and its impact

25:18-30:06 Tribal schools and relationships between tribal schools and non-tribal schools

30:06-30:53 How Wounded Knee is taught in public schools

30:53-31:33 Teacher preparation programs and Oceti Sakowin history

31:33-35:34 Significance of what’s happening in South Dakota

35:34-36:03 How people outside of South Dakota can be supportive 

36:03- Outro


Click here to see the full transcription of this episode. 

Soundtrack by Poddington Bear