Lakota Country Times: School going strong at #NoDAPL campsite

Students at Mní Wičhóni Nakíčižiŋ Owáyawa, the Defenders of the Water School, are learning about horsemanship, culture, history and language. Photo by Mní Wičhóni Nakíčižiŋ Owáyawa

School Opens In Protector Camp
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times Editor

Ed. Note: After this story went to press in The Lakota Country Times, Alayna Eagle Shield said on Facebook that the school is "set on supplies" and thanked everyone for donations. But the school needs tipis, canopies or a large tent as the cold weather approaches, she said.

Cannonball, North Dakota -- Despite the consistent flow of inaccurate reports of criminality within the protector camps near Cannonball, more and more truths are beginning to emerge from within them. The most recent development missed by the non-Native media is the creation of a school intended to serve the needs of children now living at the camps.

On Monday, approximately thirty students attended the first day of the Mní Wičhóni Nakíčižiŋ Owáyawa (Defenders of the Sacred Water school) according to Layha Spoonhunter. Spoonhunter is a motivational speaker who works with youth in Indian Country who left school at Idaho State University to contribute to the efforts in Cannonball to resist the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Since early this month Native people and their allies from across the country have traveled to the protector camps near Cannonball, North Dakota, to prevent the protect water sources from the construction of the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline, The camps have had as many as 3,000 people within them.

The school itself is project that has been undertaken by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and is being organized by Alayna Eagle Shield. Eagle Shield is a graduate of Dartmouth College and is also a member of the Bush Foundations Native-Nation Rebuilders program.

From her Facebook account she commented on the first day of school:
"Today was the very first day of the. It was a complete SUCCESS! Simply because kids showed up and learning and prayer happened all day. We started out just sitting on the grass and visiting. We ended up getting a big tent to call our school, supplies to make posters with, and kids who just LOVE to learn. I'm getting so many amazing messages from people wanting to donate supplies and help teach. We welcome any and all help, especially just being present and filling spaces with your knowledge and expertise on traditions or western education is very much appreciated and welcomed."

The children at the Mní Wičhóni Nakíčižiŋ Owáyawa (Defenders of the water school) had an awesome first week. They are...

Posted by Mní Wičhóni Nakíčižiŋ Owáyawa on Monday, September 5, 2016

Throughout the day children took in classes covering a wide variety of topics including math, language, history and culture.

"It feels good to teach the kids about their history. I want to teach them about the heroes they have that wouldn't are not taught about in history books," said Spoonhunter.

The curriculum at the school emphasizes culturally appropriate material that teaches the children about their true history and is a sense providing an education that is purely indigenous.

Each day the children also take a walk to the river where they participate in a prayer ceremony. On the second day classes in horsemanship and art were taught by experts in the camp.

Organizers say that it is important that the children in the camps stay caught up with their academics in preparation for when they return to their schools.

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"We need more curriculum for the many grades, and as many people as we can get helping to teach and just manage the schedule and kids. Please, any expertise help is needed and very appreciated," said Eagle Shield from her Facebook page.

Donations needed for the school include: Math and reading worksheets and games for multiple ages 3-14 (local teachers),Coloring books and crayons/markers,beads and art supplies. Lacrosse sticks and equipment, basketballs, soccer balls, kickballs (basketball hoops, nets for soccer if we can borrow), wood and deer hides for drum making and can be done so by contacting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

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