The History of Pine Ridge

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is home to the people of the Oglala Lakota, [one of the seven bands of the Tetunwan Oyate (People of the Prairie) which is part of the Oceti Sakowin - Seven Council Fires, also known as the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota Nation).] You may already be familiar with Oglala Lakota leaders like Crazy Horse, Fools Crow, Red Cloud and activist Russell Means. You may be familiar with Lakota historical tragedies including the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890, where over 300 men, women and children were murdered.  Lakota people continue to commemorate the loss of their relatives by holding a memorial every year on December 29th, the date of the massacre. Despite the incredible trauma and devastation that the Lakota people have endured throughout history, there still exists a strong sense of Lakota identity and pride.  

There is poverty, chronic health issues, lack of adequate education, and unemployment among the Lakota people who live on the  Pine Ridge reservation, yet there is a strength and resiliency that is at the core of the people that is remarkable.  Many people still speak the Lakota language, there is a at least fifty Sundance ceremonies that are held each summer and other ceremonies that are held throughout the year.   

It is believed that the women are the backbone of the Lakota nation, they nourish and nurture the minds, hearts and spirits of the people. As Lakota girls go through their stages of life, they are educated and provided teachings so that they will become “Winuhcala” (Wi-reference to the moon which is female; Hca - strong, solid; La - term of affection, endearment) or “dear and precious female sources of strength”. The Pine Ridge Girls' School was established to build on the strengths of the Lakota culture, while providing a solid, high quality academic education, so that the Lakota girls of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation can realize their full potential and contribute to the health, well-being and strengthening of the Lakota Nation.

Why a Girls' School?

Because that is how girls learn best.  Girls’ schools provide an environment where every girl has an opportunity to hone her emerging intellect and talents. They inculcate a culture of respect and support, shaped by relationships, that allows girls to explore and grow up slower and stronger, prepared for leadership in our global world. A girls’ school actively counteracts the negative and potentially dangerous influences of mass media and its often-troubling depictions of women. Girls are surrounded by role models when every top scholar, newspaper editor, team captain and student council president is a girl.

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The need here is great, but the gift the people bring is greater.  They know what it is to live in balance. They hold the possibility of a sustainable future. But they need their voice, and the best place to start, research shows, is with the girls.