The First Gathering of the Maȟpiya Lúta Owáyawa Oítȟaŋčhaŋ Okȟólakičhiye--the Red Cloud Indian School Leadership Society


On a clear September day, a group of Red Cloud seniors gathered together with members of the Maȟpiya Lúta Oítȟaŋčhaŋ Okȟólakičhiye--the Red Cloud Indian School Leadership Society--to explain why attending Red Cloud is so important to them.

They spoke of becoming more grounded in their identity by learning the Lakota language at Red Cloud--and shared their dreams of becoming educators, to ensure future generations have that same chance.

They spoke of having the opportunity to take challenging, college-level courses at Red Cloud, that will ultimately help them become the first in their families to pursue higher education.

They spoke about having the chance to travel and expand their horizons through opportunities at Red Cloud--from visiting college campuses to attending national conferences--and how these experiences opened their eyes to new possibilities.

And they spoke of how their teachers walked with them through some of the worst moments in their lives--after they had lost loved ones and didn't think they could go on. One young woman shared that a Red Cloud counselor had once given her the strength to persevere after she attempted to take her own life. "If it wasn't for Red Cloud, I don't know what I would have done, I wouldn't be here. I'm really grateful."

These were just some of the many stories that members of the Maȟpiya Lúta Owáyawa Oítȟaŋčhaŋ Okȟólakičhiye had a chance to hear during its very first gathering on campus. Over 80 Leadership Society members came together to experience life on campus, learn about the Pine Ridge Reservation, connect more deeply with Red Cloud students, teachers, and staff. The group joined in the day's activities as part of our community, learning phrases in the Lakota language and even taking part in the Tȟéča Wačhipi Okȟólakičhiye, or young people's powwow. It was a deeply inspiring event for all.


The day began with a tour of Red Cloud's campus. Community Relations Associate Christiana New Holy, a Red Cloud graduate herself, spoke with attendees about how her experience as a student here helped to prepare her for college and now her career.


During two student panels, members of Red Cloud's current senior class spoke directly with Leadership Society members about the support they receive to pursue their dreams and their commitment to supporting their people and community in the future.


Four Red Cloud graduates who returned to build their careers at Red Cloud spoke to Leadership Society members about why they made that choice--and what being a part of the Red Cloud community means to them.


Through the afternoon and evening, drumming, singing, and dancing at the Tȟéča Wačhípi Okȟólakičhiye, or young people's powwow, brought the community together. Leadership Society members had a chance to learn about the deep importance of cultural events and ceremonies. As one Red Cloud senior explained, "I want to set an example. I dance to show younger kids that this is part of our tradition."


Two Red Cloud seniors took on the role of teacher, as they led workshops on Lakota language. They helped Leadership Society members learn basic phrases and introductions--and shared why Red Cloud's comprehensive Lakota language curriculum has been such a powerful force in their lives.


In The Heritage Center gallery, Leadership Society members had the chance to experience a new exhibition featuring both historic and contemporary Lakota art and to learn how the arts are integrated into education at Red Cloud.


Roger White Eyes, a Red Cloud Lakota language teacher, parent, and cultural bearer in the community, led Leadership Society members in a tour of the Pine Ridge Reservation, including the site of the Wounded Knee massacre. Hearing Roger's stories and learning more about the history of the Oglala Lakota people was a powerful experience for all who attended.


To get involved in this important initiative, please reach out to Michael Welch, special assistant to Red Cloud's president, at michaelwelch@redcloudschool.org.



Photos © Red Cloud Indian School



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