Little Wound School Awarded Federal Grants Disbursed through 2023

Since the start of the new school year, Little Wound has been awarded more than $10 million in federal grants.  These funds, to be disbursed through 2023, will increase educational and social services provided to students and families. Under the guidance of LWS Board and administration, real and meaningful investments are being made in students’ educations. 

These grants align with the long-term vision and mission statement of Little Wound School District, which includes providing for the “physical health and emotional growth” of students and actively working toward “Lakota language and cultural excellence.” 

One grant will focus on expanding Lakota language instruction, bringing families and fluent speakers into the learning process. The second will increase student social support and cultural mentoring, not only for Little Wound, but in partnership with Crazy Horse and American Horse schools as well. A third will focus on early childhood education.

The Lakota language grant helps the district reimagine what language instruction looks like for both students and the school. While the district will continue offering Lakota instruction to students during the school day, it will be supplemented with an enriched curriculum for a pilot group of students. This group will be formed from elementary school students who live in a home with a fluent speaker; the grant will support home-based language instruction.

Rekindling the intergenerational transfer of language will take effort, and this grant sets the foundation. The grant, funded for three years, will begin with a comprehensive survey of fluent Lakota speakers throughout the Medicine Root District. The survey will seek to uncover some of the reasons that Lakota speakership has been steadily declining for generations, specifically in Kyle and the surrounding communities. Additionally, it will try to understand how Lakota is used in homes, the current role of the language, and best-practices for instruction.

An initial survey, conducted in 2015, identified more than 200 fluent speakers in Medicine Root District. Little Wound now has the opportunity to follow up with these speakers and learn how families pass on the Lakota language. This will empower Little Wound to develop and support language instruction that takes place in homes—a service that will be offered during the final two years of the grant. Expanded after-school immersion programing for elementary school students will also be offered.

 The second grant has been awarded to Little Wound School in partnership with Crazy Horse and American Horse and will run through 2023.

For the last few years, conversations throughout the reservation have touched on a model of student support known as “trauma-informed care.” This model helps educate adult staff in schools to better recognize and respond to students who may be impacted by trauma. It is a community-based model and includes resources for students, parents, families, and neighbors. 

A seminar on the topic, organized by Cecelia Fire Thunder, chairwoman of the Little Wound School board, was held at Rockyford School in fall 2017. School staff from across the reservation participated, engaging in a conversation about how schools can best support students. This grant takes many of the ideas generated from the seminar and brings them to reality.

Each of the three partner schools will be provided funding to hire a cultural mentor who will work with students and incorporate Lakota traditions into the academic and healing process. Depending on the size of the school, each partner will hire two or three people to serve as wayawa kin slolic’iya wicaye—“helping students to know themselves”—whose job will focus on the mental and behavioral health of students, meeting with students to provide counsel, support, and help identify additional outside resources and services. Additionally, each school site will hire a Trauma-Informed School Implementation Coach to help teachers, administration, and school staff use the model effectively and develop new ways to respond to students who display mental or behavioral health issues.

These staff will be supported by a project director, a co-coordinator, and a community project manager at each school. Additional support for counseling will be provided via telehealth, a way to quickly connect in-need students to a licensed psychiatrist, social worker, or other appropriate mental health professional.

The early childhood education grant will be administered by Little Wound in partnership with Oglala Lakota College and OLC Head Start. This grant focuses on improving academic proficiency among the youngest learners by increasing reading and literacy in the home. School-to-community liaisons will deliver books to homes, meet with families, and encourage good attendance.

Together, these grants reflect a significant investment in the education of students both at Little Wound School and its partner organizations.

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