April 8, 2022

NDN Collective Responds to SD Gov. Noem’s Executive Order Restricting Critical Race Theory

“Noem’s executive order is yet another move that tragically diminishes the capacity of our young people to see difficult historical truths with empathy. We need leadership whose actions ensure all of our youth will have enriching learning opportunities that prepare them for a transformative future."

For Immediate Release: April 7, 2022

Rapid City, SD — Today, NDN Collective responded to recent news that South Dakota governor Kristi Noem signed an executive order that claims to restrict the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 state schools. 

“Noem’s executive order is yet another move that tragically diminishes the capacity of our young people to see difficult historical truths with empathy,” said Sarah Manning, Director of Communications at NDN Collective. “We need leadership whose actions ensure all of our youth will have enriching learning opportunities that prepare them for a transformative future. This executive order does the exact opposite, setting our children back and undoing generations of victories from civil rights leaders, Native educators, and policymakers in South Dakota and nationwide.

“Noem is doubling down on the continuation of white supremacy, which flies in the face of the collective good. Time and again, her policies perpetuate a legacy of racism in a state where Indigenous people already suffer daily racial assaults in both covert and overt ways.” 

“Kristi Noem’s attempt to cut opportunities for historically accurate education is a way to  further perpetuate the systemic racism Indigenous people are fighting,” said Sunny Red Bear, NDN Collective Director of Racial Equity. “Right now, we are being forced to respond to an act of overt racism by the owner of the Grand Gateway hotel – a developing situation where ‘good Native, bad Native’ language recycled from the past has emerged from the woodwork yet again, demonstrating how much more work we have to do in South Dakota and beyond.

 “Noem is misconstruing the purpose of the Civil Rights Act – which was meant  to address inequities, discrimination, and racism that communities of color were and are facing – to double down on white privilege. Noem’s order speaks to her blatant attempts to use Indigenous people as scapegoats to further her own political advancement.”

“Critical Race Theory has never been taught in K-12 classrooms but rather in higher education, specifically law courses,” said Mary Bowman, NACA Inspired Schools Network (NISN) fellow. “It is deeply disturbing that creating false issues just to promote white supremacy is a priority for Governor Noem, while the educational system of South Dakota continues to fail our Indigenous students. 

“Noem has made her intentions clear, from the revision of the Social Studies curriculum last year that attempted to further erase the history and impact of the Indigenous people that walked this land first, to her nonsensical executive order this week. Indigenous students need to see themselves in what they are learning to understand who they are and where they come from. This helps to heal the trauma caused by the compulsory boarding schools our ancestors were forced into – a historical trauma our young people still carry today. Our wakanyeja need healing.” 

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NDN Collective is an Indigenous-led organization dedicated to building Indigenous power. Through organizing, activism, philanthropy, grantmaking, capacity-building, and narrative change, we are creating sustainable solutions on Indigenous terms.

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