A New Movement on Standing Rock : Code Switch : NPR

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A group of educators and parents the Standing Rock Reservation decided to start their own school. It's called Mní Wičhóni Nakíčižiŋ Wóuŋspe or the Defenders of the Water School and it started during the movement against the Dakota Access pipeline.
A group of educators and parents the Standing Rock Reservation decided to start their own school. It's called Mní Wičhóni Nakíčižiŋ Wóuŋspe or the Defenders of the Water School and it started during the movement against the Dakota Access pipeline.

What do you do when all your options for school kind of suck? That was the question some folks on the Standing Rock Reservation found themselves asking a couple of years ago. Young people were being bullied and harassed in public schools, and adults were worried that their kids weren’t learning important tenets of Lakota language and culture. No one seemed thrilled with their options.

Community members in charge of building the second earth lodge for the Defenders of the Water School survey the land.

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Community members in charge of building the second earth lodge for the Defenders of the Water School survey the land.

Christina Cala/NPR

So a group of educators and parents decided to start their own school. It’s called Mní Wičhóni Nakíčižiŋ Wóuŋspe or the Defenders of the Water School and it started during the movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Now, five years later, this place of learning operates nothing like other schools in the area. The plan is for students to fulfill an English credit with a prayer journey to the Black Hills. They’ll earn a biology credit on a buffalo hunt. And they’ll learn history from elders in their community.

Builders prop up a log for the Defenders of the Water School’s second earth lodge.

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Builders prop up a log for the Defenders of the Water School’s second earth lodge.

Christina Cala/NPR

It’s an ambitious undertaking that’s come up against many challenges: securing proper funding, getting state accreditation, not to mention building the actual school. But the people involved in the project are confident that if they can make this happen, it will transform the way that the next generation of students understand their traditions, identities, and themselves.

(from left to right) Tasha Peltier, Kimimila Locke, Alayna Eagle Shield with her kids Kyya Lyn and Changleska, and Red Rock Eagle Standing Perkins inside the earth lodge.

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(from left to right) Tasha Peltier, Kimimila Locke, Alayna Eagle Shield with her kids Kyya Lyn and Changleska, and Red Rock Eagle Standing Perkins inside the earth lodge.

Christina Cala/NPR

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