"I see myself being a positive role model for anyone that needs someone to look up to or to reach out to, to get some help with their own goals and dreams."


Long before graduating from Red Cloud in 2008, Rilda Means knew she wanted to become an attorney and fight for tribal land and water rights. Now a new graduate of Black Hills State University with a degree in Political Science and American Indian Studies, she has returned home to Red Cloud’s campus to serve as Community Relations Associate while she begins a graduate program in Lakota Leadership at Oglala Lakota College. We sat down with Rilda to get a sense for where she is on her journey and how she is gearing up for her next adventure - law school.


Q&A with Rilda Means:

Where did you grow up and when did you first come to Red Cloud?

I grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation, moving around a lot within the community but finally settling in our home 3 miles east of Pine Ridge center. I went to school at Red Cloud Indian School from through Kindergarten through 12th Grade. My Mother was also a teacher here at Red Cloud for a while.

What are you currently working on—academically or professionally?

I was recently hired here at Red Cloud Indian School as the Community Relations Associate. I'm responsible for a team of summer interns, campus tours, working with staff and the Community Relations Coordinator to help plan events, and I am one of the first points of contact for people or organizations interested in the school. It's a great position for me being an alumnus since I'm really familiar with the school.

My long-term goal professionally is to become a tribal lawyer. I am looking more into a field that deals with land and water rights for tribes. I hope to complete Law School in the next five to ten years and start working to support my community.

How did your time at Red Cloud prepare you for the life you live today?

It prepared me in an academic point of view. Red Cloud really expects you to do your work and do it to the best of your ability - and above all to hand it in on time. This conditioned me for the workload in college and instilled a sense of confidence that I'll carry with me into Law School. The education I received also prepared me to be aware of the different cultures outside of the reservation. Of course, I went through some culture shock while in college, but it was not as bad as I'm sure it could have been had I not gone to school at Red Cloud where we had many opportunities to learn about issues and topics both on and off the reservation.

The staff and faculty at Red Cloud also helped me get excited about my future and the things I want to do in life. I really appreciate the inspiration over the years and what they have done for me. Because of this, I too live my life this way; to be excited and positive about the future and myself and of my community.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d share with current Red Cloud students?

Always, always listen to your teachers. There are reasons for their teaching methods and the ways they push you to improve your work. Listen: it will greatly help you later on in life. Take in everything Red Cloud has to offer and most importantly, have confidence in yourself; it will give you strength to accomplish what goals you have for yourself.

More on Rilda, in the News:

Recent BHSU graduate plans to use her degree to inspire others, NPR (South Dakota Public Broadcasting)
BHSU graduate hopes to bring positive light to Pine Ridge Reservation as future tribal lawyerBlack Hills State University

last updated: July 10, 2013