The 2017-18 Executive Student Council at St. Francis Indian School in South Dakota. From left: President Bryton Whipple, 12th; Vice President Shelby Little Shield, 11th; Secretary Verene Marshall, 11th; and Treasurer Jeffrey Curry, 11th. Not Pictured: Sergeat-At-Arms Edgar Boneshirt, 11th; and Reporter: Lancer Roubideaux, 12th. Photo: St. Francis Indian School Student Council

Native Sun News Today: Public high school is first to offer treaty class

The first of its kind

High school Treaty class at St. Francis first in Nation
By Richie Richards
Native Sun News Today Correspondent

ST. FRANCIS – The Treaty Class held at the St. Francis Indian School on the Rosebud Indian Reservation is the first high school in the nation to have such a class.

The anniversary of the signing of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 is coming up on April 29, 2018. St. Francis Indian School has responded to this important date in Lakota history by developing a curriculum for a class specific to the treaty and its ramifications.

St. Francis High School Principal, Debra Boyd, is in her first year as principal at the high school; prior to coming to St. Francis, she was a principal at Todd County High School in Mission. As a school board member for Todd County, she is unable to work for the school so she transferred to St. Francis.

As a SFHS graduate, Principal Boyd says, “It’s an honor to be back here as principal. I’ve got the thirty-plus years in working in education.”

The Treaty Class developed from SFHS staff member, Duane Hollow Horn Bear’s participation in the 150th commemoration of the signing of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty meetings. Tribal representatives from across the region have been planning this event for the past several years.

“Because we have a lot of teachers that are not Native, he (Hollow Horn Bear) helps a lot of the teachers with any kind of instruction on history or culture in regards to who we (Lakota) are and how to teach to Native students,” the principal said of the initial idea of bringing a class on the 1868 treaty to St. Francis.

“Duane and Sammy High Crane are involved in the Sicangu Lakota Treaty Council, so they go to all these meetings and through the course of conversation, Duane said, ‘I wonder why we can’t have a class here’, said Principal Boyd.


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Following this initial discussion, Boyd concludes staff members from St. Francis brought this up to the Rosebud-based treaty council and talks became reality. “They brought it back to the school and we needed to find a teacher. They went to Lita Brandis (SFHS Teacher) and she consented to join the class,” she said.

Principal Davis says the Treaty Class development and curriculum is a team effort from many in Sicangu territory and credits Ion Quickly (Bilingual Department) and Staci Cummins (GAT Director) in those efforts, as well.

Part of the development of the curriculum for the class came from asking students to see if there would be any interest in learning of the treaty and their treaty rights. “First, they already knew of the commemoration anniversary, but they were asking why they needed to learn about the treaty when it doesn’t pertain to them,” she said of the initial reaction from SFHS students.

Students were reluctant, initially, because they felt this 1868 document did not pertain to their lives in the 21st century. “A lot of students are still saying that in the classroom, today.”

The St. Francis Indian School year is taught in quarters. They Treaty Class has been made available for the third and fourth quarter of the 2017-2018 academic school year for nine weeks per quarter.

Unfortunately, some of the students in the class have dropped out; partially due to disinterest but also, Principal Boyd concedes it might be due to the Treaty Class being offered in the first hour of school. “A number have dropped out but mainly because that is a first-hour class,” said the SFHS principal. “I think in the first hour class (Treaty Class) she has about six students, but in her sixth-hour class she has more (students).”

Administratively, many steps had to be done in order to bring an idea for curriculum into an actual classroom setting. “We have to sit down and come up with a course syllabus. We had to go into her (SFHS teacher Lita) instructional part and develop lesson plans. I had to do my evaluations and approve,” said Boyd.

“Also, I had to sit down with Duane and Ion (Quickly), because Ion’s the teacher in the language department. We sat down and came up with the nine-week class; that’s how it came about,” said the principal.

The Treaty Class at St. Francis Indian School is unique to tribal territories. Both Duane Hollow Horn Bear and Principal Boyd have not heard of another class, specific to a tribe’s treaty or treaties that has been taught across the country. The principal hopes the Treaty Class sets a precedent for other tribal schools to teach youth about their own treaties.

Treaties are binding contracts with the United States governments which gave rights to land, provisions and other needs of the indigenous nations. Although developed over one hundred years ago and “broken” many times over by the federal government, the impact of treaty rights continues to affect tribal members of today, living on and off reservations.

“We are in a trial period with the class. We are finding things that are working and things that are not working. Next year (2018-2019 school year), we’ll know what we need to do,” said Principal Boyd. “We have some phenomenal students in this school. These students of today just blow me away. They come up with things about the class that I would never have thought of.”

Honoring The Spirit: April 28, 2018. Sunrise to Sunset. Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the signing of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie. Image courtesy Phil Two Eagle

Principal Boyd says of the younger generation at her school, “They truly have voices.” She stresses the importance of the students to learn the treaty as it will be the next few generations who will pick up the struggles of protecting treaty rights; especially under a presidential administration bent on collapsing tribal rights to land and water. “They’re just now finding these voices with what’s going on in the nation,” she said.

The class will continue to develop and be a part of the classes offered at St. Francis Indian School, according to Boyd. She credits the school board’s support for making this class become permanent. The next step would be to make this a mandatory class for the Lakota portion of their curriculum.

“We would like to get it to the state level at some point. Representative Troy Heinert, when he’s not in session, is trying to get something on that level,” she said. “This is in the beginning stages of something bigger. We’re excited. We’re honored and very proud to be taking on this endeavor.”

The Treaty Class students from St. Francis Indian School will be presenting at the 150th commemoration of the signing of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty event on April 28-May 1, 2018 in Fort Laramie, WY.

Contact Native Sun News Today Correspondent Richie Richards

Copyright permission Native Sun News Today

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