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Rapid City’s changing school demographics



Rapid City is split along the cultural and economic lines many cities are divided by. But few cities in this country, if any, are so perfectly separated by physical reality as well. A Gap has separated the city, and for years West Rapid was a distinctly different place than North or South Rapid.

Although there were differences between North and South Rapid, they were both on the East side of the Gap. Two junior highs fed Central High School, and both had Lakota students, although North Junior High was about a third Lakota.

West Rapid had West Junior High, and there were few Lakota faces in their student body from kindergarten to Grade 12. This was carved in stone for over a half century, but of late, Lakota students have been cropping up at every high school. For several years now, basketball participation at all the high schools has been increasing for Lakota kids. Some Lakota ball players have now spent their entire school history on the west-side.

It is becoming increasingly more difficult for fans of Indian basketball to find a team they hate. As a sportswriter it is great for me because teams that traditionally had no Lakota participation, I can now cover. This does not mean that racism has been eliminated. But the inevitable consequence of any mixing has always been that people 1are drawn together, that they truly grow to process the distinctions between themselves and others as something not threatening and revolting.

Now, at none of these schools, do they perform the Lakota Flag Song. You would think that such a symbolic gesture of cultural acceptance and appreciation would have been a foregone propriety. That it isn’t speaks to a tone deaf comprehension on the part of school administration and the boards that govern them.

The Flag Song is meant to honor America not the flag of the Lakota. Traditionally, the Lakota had no flag. It would seem at a Class AA school like Central, realizing their long history with Lakota people, and their close proximity to the North Rapid neighborhood most urban Lakota call home, they would see that Central was not and never could be just another “White” high school. The Lakota presence there is a huge contributing factor to the identity so distinct from any other high school that the greeting sign outside reads “Once a Cobbler, always a Cobbler.”

Even Catholic churches where Lakota are the majority of the congregation, have symbols easily seen of the unique makeup and history of the Lakota, but Central does not regularly recognize their Lakota students with similar symbolism or gestures. This recognition is not calling for special treatment, it is exactly what a school would proactively propose and implement if it was truly sensitive to Lakota people, and truly appreciative of their presence in the school, the neighborhood, the community, the city.

(James Giago Davies is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe. He can be reached at skindiesel@msn. com)

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