Mission, Values & History

Handmade moccasins
Lakota Moccasins (Made by LWS Teacher)

Our Indigenous Mission

Located in southwestern South Dakota, the Lakota Waldorf School (LWS) is an independent, nonsectarian, and tuition-free school serving children, Grades K-8, living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Our mission is to provide a Waldorf Education integrated with a Lakota language and culture program that helps Lakota children:

LWS also engages in a wide variety of community outreach activities that educate families on problems critical to the future of the Lakota people. The essential issues are related to the physical and emotional health of children and their families. But we also support environmental concerns and partake in community activities that reinforce Lakota language, culture, and traditions.

Our long-term vision is that LWS empowers some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children in the country to create positive futures for themselves, their communities, and beyond. And that our indigenous mission serves as a source of cultural and social renewal to the people of the Great Oglala Nation.

Indigenous Wooden Figures
Indigenous Wooden Figures

Our Lakota Values

LWS is built upon the belief that the Lakota people’s strength and future rest on the continued teaching of their language and sacred values. To this end, LWS integrates the Lakota language into all LWS classes. We also strive to honor these seven Lakota values in all school activities: 

Our History: A Brief Outline

1992 Spring: Discussions began among elders and families of the Oglala Lakota Tribe regarding the need for a new school that would educate students in a way that respects Lakota culture and language. After several meetings, it was decided that Waldorf pedagogy was the best educational model for the Lakota children and the Waldorf School was started.

1993 August: The Articles of Incorporation for the Wolakota Waldorf Society (commonly known as the Lakota Waldorf School) were approved by the Secretary of the State of South Dakota. The founding members were John Haas, John Around Him, Saunie Wilson, Matilda Monteleaux, Robert and Isabel Stadnick, and Norman Under Baggage.

1994 Spring: Construction began on the Kindergarten Building, a small two-room multi-purpose schoolhouse built on a 40-acre property in Kyle SD, under a lease to purchase agreement.

1994 Fall: The first kindergarten class of the Lakota Waldorf School (LWS) opened. Enrollment began with 18-20 pre-school and kindergarten children – the limit of the building’s capacity – and remained consistent until LWS was able to recruit elementary school teachers.

The school started with these three education programs that have grown but remain the foundation of the school:

1995: The IRS recognizes the Lakota Waldorf School (registered as Wolakota Waldorf Society) as 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization; EIN 36-3957237.

1997: To provide a permanent location for the pre-school and kindergarten program, LWS purchased the 40-acre property through a gift from an individual.

1999: Waldorf high school students from Germany built a second schoolhouse. Limited in size, the building served a small group of first to fourth-grade students every year until 2004.

2004 Summer: LWS temporarily closed to conduct long-overdue building renovations on the school buildings.

2007 Fall: LWS reopened the kindergarten. 

2008 Fall: Isabel Stadnick started as the School Administrator. Fundraising efforts began to grow with grants and gifts from foundations and Native American tribes, which enabled LWS to expand its programs and curriculum over the following years.

2009: The Lakota Stiftung (Foundation) made its first grant to the Lakota Waldorf School. Located in Ettingen, Switzerland, the foundation was started in 2008 to provide a vehicle for Europeans to make tax-deductible gifts that support Lakota language and culture projects for children and youth.

2010: LWS purchased a new school bus through a grant from the Moore Charitable Trust, which expanded the geographical area served by the school.

2010 Fall: A grant from RSF Social Finance enabled the school to build an organic garden on its property as part of the LWS Garden & Healthy Meal Program. Also, the Roots and Shoots Program from the Jane Goodall Institute began donating seeds, plants, and assistance with the planting, maintenance, and harvesting of our garden.

2011: The first Lakota Tipi Camp was held at the school. (Lakota Tipi Camp, Inc. is a tax-exempt organization, which provides on a limited basis authentic travel experiences in the land of the Lakota People of South Dakota. All profits from its operations support the Lakota Waldorf School.)

2012 Fall: LWS restarted a combined first and second-grade class held in the completed second building (initially started in 1999). The school’s total enrollment increased to 26 children.

2016: In response to an increase in requests from families wanting to enroll their children, the LWS Board of Directors developed a Master Plan for Campus Expansion – a plan to provide enriching physical learning for as many as 80 children, Grades K-8.

2017: LWS launched Phase 1 of the Campaign for Campus Expansion. Also, the LWS curriculum expanded from K – 2nd Grade to K – 6th Grade. 

2018 February: Phase 1A of the Master Plan for Campus Expansion was completed, which provided two large light-filled classrooms (a combined first through third-grade class and a combined fourth through seventh-grade class). The school also hired two new teachers.

2019 Spring: A grant from the First Nations Development Institute supported the expansion of the Lakota Language Program with activities related to gardening, food preparation, and the teaching of traditional Lakota native plants, food self-sufficiency, and ecology. The “hoop house” was built as part of this expanded program. 

2019 Summer: The Academy for Indigenous Waldorf Pedagogy, developed by Celestine Stadnick and under guidance and mentorship of the Waldorf Teacher Training Institute in Dornach, Switzerland, started an on-site teacher training program at LWS. This is the first Indigenous Waldorf Teacher Training in the USA. 

2019 Fall: LWS curriculum expanded to K – 8th Grade. 

2019 September: LWS hosted its first Pow Wow (Teča Wačipi Okolakiciye), which was attended by over 230 people. The event included the celebration of LWS’s 26th Anniversary and commemorated the 100th Anniversary of the worldwide Waldorf educational movement. 

2019 December – Phase 1B of the Master Plan for Campus Expansion was completed, which provided an additional classroom, bathroom, utility room, and more.

FUTURE: To complete the Master Plan for Campus Expansion, which will provide much-needed office and meeting space for faculty and administration staff as well as a professional kitchen, student cafeteria-lunchroom, and a coffee shop for the community and visitors

"Out of the Indian approach to life, there came a great freedom, intense and absorbing respect for life, enriching faith in a Supreme Power, and principles of truth, honesty, generosity, equity, and brotherhood as a guide to mundane relations.”
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Chief Luther Standing Bear
Oglala Lakota Tribe
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