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RCAS has chance at a Lakota-based talking circle program

RAPID CITY—A proposal was floated Tuesday night at the Rapid City Board of Education meeting, from Oyate Luta Okolakiciye, a Lakota-based nonprofit organization established in 2012. Annie Bachand and executive director Gene Tyon gave the presentation, talked about the offering, would be open to both Native and non-Native middle school students in the Rapid City Area Schools.

The primary goal, would help promote healing by providing substance abuse prevention, intervention and recovery education, attempting to reconnect “inherent cultural potential while instilling hope, promoting wellness and revitalizing cultural identity development in youth, adults, families and communities,” according to the organization’s website.

The proposed talking circle would be conducted with OLO volunteers vetted through the RCAS Office of College and Career Readiness, if the Board of Education approves the partnership. The circles would occur during EI classes or study hall and would not disrupt instructional time.

Angel Lee, Title VI Indian Education Manager with RCAS said the idea was introduced to middle school principals who all were in favor of the proposed project and felt it would support the needs of Native students.

“Our primary goal is providing cultural identity development for the healing of that unresolved trauma and grief that exists within our people that we witness in the substance use and abuse and alcohol use in our relatives out in the community,” Bachand said.

She said this brings hope and an opportunity for healing and the restoration of the ability to be sustainable, contributing members of the community.

Bachand said that this is intended to assist the school system in the development of the programming. “We are here for our youth, we exist for our youth, for our future generations.” She said. She also mentioned that they know there’s an alarming attrition rate among Native American high school students, affecting 75 percent, and a high rate of teen suicide.

“We know there is a need for preventative ways to these challenges in our community,” she said.  “We offer the school personnel support, not just in these talking circles that we’re proposing, but to meet with and support as often as we can to be another additional partner in the school.”

The program is intennded for all students, not just Native American students. The implementation of the talking circles with the RCAS is in alignment with the South Dakota state standards and in alignment with the Health and Education and Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings.

Those outcomes include: identifying, promoting self-image and self-advocacy, strengthening cultural resilience, promoting healing, strengthening family, community, school relationships and promoting Indigenous academic achievement. Bachand said they can incorporate tribal knowledge, language and approaches through dialogue, support and education with a holistic approach.

Bachand said if there is a conversation about a particular education challenge, the volunteers would sit down with principals and present feedback. She also said if someone mentioned self-harm, that would be addressed immediately. She said the volunteers are mandatory reporters. There will also be a certified staff member in the room during the talking circles. Board President Kate Thomas said the program sounded very promising, and a memorandum of understanding will be presented at the August 16 meeting to formalize the partnership, if the board chooses to do so.

(Contact Joe Budd at

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