Essential Understandings, Standards part of 2007 Indian Education Act


By Ron Walters

In 2007, the South Dakota Legislature passed the Indian Education Act, which mandated the development of course content for curriculum and coursework in South Dakota American Indian history and culture.
As part of that legislative mandate, an initiative called the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and Standards project has been underway.
The project is led by the South Dakota Department of Education, Office of Indian Education and included the production of a promotional video.
Funding for the project came from the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, who awarded a grant to the South Dakota Department of Education, Office of Indian Education in 2008.
For the past three years, many talented and passionate educators worked together to develop the Oceti Sakowin Core Concepts.
The Essential Understandings and Standards was developed by a smaller work group over the final year of the project, including some elders from the reservations.
The final production of the video, including an interview with Gladys Hawk at the Sitting Bull College site, is the final phase of the project and will be used as a resource for teachers across South Dakota.
According to the project website:, the video project is especially important to non-native teachers because it will deepen their own understanding of Native American culture in order to become more comfortable teaching Native American history and culture in the classroom.
The Essential Understandings and Standards project was completed in 2011 and approved by the South Dakota Board of Education.

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