Strategic initiative

Want to learn more about how you can can be part of the movement? Visit the Strategic Initiative website!


Letter from LBR Executive Director Devon Riter:

Looking back at 2018 and seeing all LBR has accomplished sure feels good, but looking ahead to 2019 is even more exciting. We have a unique opportunity as an out-of-school program to be innovative, to test new ideas that have the potential to transform education, and that’s exactly what we are planning to do. In 2019, we will lay the foundation for a large scale strategic initiative, aimed at rethinking what educational experiences for students should look like.

Why do we need to rethink K-12 education in South Dakota? Well, I can sum that up best in just one number, 3%. When we look at South Dakota K-12 state schools, more than 11% of the students enrolled are Native American, yet enrollment for Native Americans in 2018 for all state universities was only 3% (SDBOR, 2018). I do not mean to say that every Native American student needs to attend a state university in order to be successful, or that college enrollment rates alone can tell us the whole story. Instead what this number signals to me is something much deeper - that for far too long the system of formal education in South Dakota has not worked for many Native American students.

For decades, we’ve known the solutions needed to build an educational system that works for Native kids (Meriam, 1928). Fundamental to this system is the incorporation of Native American community members as educational and administrative leaders, working to transform community schools. Around the country there are models for how to achieve this change including Grow Your Own Programs (gyocollective.org) and the NACA Inspired Schools Network (nacainspiredschoolsnetwork.org). These programs are grounded in local communities. They create more effective teachers and in turn more effective schools, which serve as foundations for strong economies.

In 2019, I will be using the insights learned from LBR’s summer programs, along with knowledge from experts around the country and local community members to plan and build a strategic initiative for launch in 2020. This strategic initiative will work to build a broad coalition of diverse members committed to supporting innovative teacher recruitment, training, and certification models that are shown to positively impact student outcomes. By empowering a new generation of teachers and administrators, I believe we can create the transformative change that’s needed.

When all South Dakota students, both Native and non-Native, step into their next classroom and find an inspiring teacher ready to create the learning opportunities they need to be successful, South Dakota and the rest of the country will finally see a new level of economic prosperity and the full impact of our collective work. Learn more and join us by visiting the Strategic Initiative website.

Devon Riter,
Executive Director Lower Brule Research


Meriam, Lewis, and Hubert Work. The problem of Indian administration: report of a survey made at the request of honorable Hubert Work, secretary of the interior, and submitted to him, February 21, 1928. No. 17. Johns Hopkins Press, 1928.

“SDBOR Fall Enrollment Dashboard.” Pages - Need Based Scholarship, 2018, www.sdbor.edu/dashboards/Pages/Fall-Enrollment-Dashboard.aspx.