Education is very important. I believe the only way we can get ahead in today’s society is to finish school. An education is the most potent weapon you can carry today. An educated Lakota can be on the same intelligence level as anyone else in this world.
To master the educational system of the oppressor is an extremely effective form of protest, in my opinion. You can use your college degree to fight the system put in place to keep you in a state of poverty. The oppressor wants us to all give up and quit school. And as long as we remain dependent upon the oppressor they will continue to control our lives. Don’t you want to be independent?
There are many Lakota people who have, for whatever reason, dropped out of high school. Many of you who quit high school did not enroll or finish a General Educational Development (GED) program either. There are many tribal members in Rosebud who cannot find steady work because they don’t meet the minimum educational requirements. Most of the jobs advertised by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe require applicants to have at least a high school diploma or a GED.
I realize the local schools are lacking a lot. There is no motivation for many of our students to remain in school. Bullying is rampant in our schools. And even though there are many dedicated staff members employed by our schools, there are many others who shouldn’t be working in our schools at all. School staff should be positive role models encouraging students to learn.
I worked in a school system for many years. The best part of working there was the students. They always had something to teach me. Our elementary, middle and high schools exist to serve the students. But most schools on the Rez are more focused on the drama created by the adults than they are on the students. Oftentimes, a school board will vote in staff/faculty/policy which is not in the best interest of the students. Yet, politics are politics and school boards are far from being above petty political maneuvers.
When you drop out of school you are setting an example for your peers to follow. You show your friends and younger siblings that it’s okay to quit school. But believe me, you will regret dropping out of school when you can’t find a job and have to depend on others to pay your way through life. We all need money to survive in this cash economy. In order to make money you will need a job. You will never get a good paying job when you are a high school dropout.
High school was a difficult time for me. It is usually a difficult time for us all. It was hard to finish high school but I knew if I dropped out I would be limiting the choices I had in life. I stuck it out and graduated with a high school diploma. And even though it took me many years I also graduated from college with a Bachelor’s degree. The time I spent in school was well worth it because now my education carries me through life. I would never have made it this far in my life without a college education.
When my children were small I depended on financial assistance from the tribe and state to make ends meet. But when my children grew into adults and started families of their own the public assistance ended. I had to pay my own way. My college education will always be there to help me find a job. I have chosen to remain on the Rez so it takes time to find a job but a college degree always gives you an added advantage. My education is something no one can ever take away from me.
Furthermore, working for your own money will allow you to stop depending on public assistance programs. It’s also great for your self-esteem! Paying your bills with the money you earn by working is a way to feel good about yourself. Education is the key to a lot of things in life. One door having an education can open for you is to be hired for a job which pays enough for you to be self-supporting.
I realize we live in one of the poorest counties in the nation. Personally, I am sick of living in a county which is famous for how poverty stricken it is. One way to protest this is to become self-sufficient. That is, I believe it is a form of protest to work yourself away from dependence upon tribal and state assistance programs. I am so glad that I do not have to deal with all the rude workers in the social services office anymore!
I am not trying to degrade my fellow tribal members who depend on public or tribal assistance programs to make ends meet. We do live in an extreme poverty area. But we all have control over their own lives. You can always choose to finish school. It’s really hard to study. It’s really hard to have a job where you have to be there every day. It’s difficult to do many things when you lack financial resources, dependable transportation and child care. But the rewards you receive in terms of being self-sufficient are priceless.
This week we will see many of our beloved children making their way back to the classroom. Many of our students are motivated to begin their quest for an education. Most are genuinely committed to receiving an education. They are looking forward to another academic year in the classroom. Please encourage them to stay motivated and support their efforts to finish school.
We desperately need our Lakota people to become educated. Our future is in our children. I want them to be self-sufficient. It is a fact that some families have not worked at jobs for two or three generations. Is this the future you want for your great-grandchildren?