Lakota Waldorf School: Fighting Poverty on an Indian Reservation

Students Chopping Veggies

By Madeleine Wuergler
Handwork teacher at Green Meadow Waldorf School and Otto Specht School

It was first in 2007 and again in 2013 that I passed by the Lakota Waldorf School while driving around the beautiful mid-west. Although the school was closed for those summers, I was moved by its existence and felt immediately determined to support the school any way I could. This past September, I had the opportunity to travel to Kyle, South Dakota once again, but this time as a volunteer at the Lakota Waldorf School, the only Waldorf School in North America on an Indian Reservation.

The Lakota Waldorf School is a small school surrounded by never-ending prairie, in the midst of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This reservation is one of the poorest areas in the United States, with an unemployment rate of 75% to 80%. Many of the local people suffer from severe alcohol and drug abuse, and much of the reservation is considered a food desert.

Because of these circumstances, the Lakota Waldorf School is an incredible support system for the 24 children who attend the school. The children in the school are provided with wholesome meals and are sent home on Friday afternoons with a weekend’s supply of healthy snacks. The teachers are aware that many of the families do not have the resources to provide a nutritious meal.

Each morning, they are greeted with the wonderful smell of a healthy breakfast of oatmeal, scrambled eggs from their own chicken, or rice pudding with honey and raisins. Lunch consists of organic food, including vegetables from their own garden and bison meat from a local store. All the meals are cooked at the school.

The Lakota Waldorf School’s mission is to empower the children and initiate their educational process with creativity, positivity, community, and Lakota culture. In 1992 Isabel Stadnick, a school founder and the current administrator, traveled to the Goetheanum with three Lakota tribal members, one of whom was her husband Robert Stadnick. There they were encouraged to incorporate the Lakota Language and culture into their budding Waldorf school.

The 16 kindergartners and 8 first and second graders that make up the Lakota Waldorf School, begin their day with the morning verse in the Lakota language, Lakota songs, music, and stories. The curriculum includes language arts, math, science, and social studies as well as handwork, flute music, painting, drawing and modeling classes, and storytelling throughout the day.

Currently the entire school is housed in one small building, which includes the kindergarten, kitchen, and office. There is a separate, small building for the combined 1st/2nd grade. To continue supporting students and their families, they are planning to add grades 3, 4, and 5 and eventually grow the school up to the 8th grade. Plans are also underway to build an urgently needed additional building, to accommodate a larger kitchen, three or four additional classrooms, and a healthy café. Plans for the new building include straw bale construction as well as solar and wind energy. Jeff Dickinson, a well-known sustainable design architect, is involved in the addition of the school.

Not only is Waldorf education important for these children, but the support they receive is crucial for their overall well-being. The families cannot afford to pay tuition requiring that the school rely 100% on donated funds. The Lakota Waldorf School community, including the administration, current and future students and families would greatly appreciate donations, small or large, to sustain this incredibly meaningful endeavor on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Having spent a week working with these students who are growing up in severe poverty and some in traumatic circumstances, I can personally attest to the positive impact the school has on each of their lives. My sincere hope is that the Lakota Waldorf School will continue to thrive and educate young ones for years to come.

Please visit the website and consider making a gofundme donation in order to ensure the survival of this very special school.

Checks are welcome as well, sent to:

Lakota Waldorf School
In att. Isabel Stadnick
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation,
Three Mile Creek
P.O. Box 527,
Kyle, S.D. 57752
Phone: 605 455 2487 or email:

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