Mní Wičhóni Nakíčižiŋ Wouŋspe (MWNW, or the Defenders of the Water School) was established in August 2016 to provide education and education services for young people at the Oceti Sakowin Resistance Camp protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
Family members and elders, approached our Founder, Alayna Eagle Shield, who was then the Tribe’s language specialist, and asked her to pull together a team and set up a school for the children who had joined them at the camp. They were seeking a different kind of education than that available in schools designed after Western models. They wanted a school that drew on the strength of the camp, a place of indigenous solidarity and strength. Specifically, they asked for a school rooted in Lakhota language and culture, activism and one that affirmed Indigenous identities. In this way Mní Wičhóni Nakíčižiŋ Wouŋspe has been community-based since its inception.
Wóič’ičhuŋze - Mission
To help transform the Standing Rock Nation by providing community-based Indigenized education services to interested high school students who will become nation builders fluent in Lakota language and culture.
WMNW will collaborate with community partners to source student projects in a wide range of subjects, such as holistic wellness, Lakota/Dakota language and culture, nation rebuilding, and environmental and social justice. As our students complete these projects they will be able to earn high school credit, while learning valuable on the job and life skills.
Our team of educators will organize each student’s experience at MWNW so they learn to share -- with each other, with their community and with the land -- the Lakota understanding mitákuye owás’iŋ, and its four related values, otákuye wičhóȟ’aŋ (relationships), awáŋkičhiyaŋka (reciprocity), phiphíya kpamní (redistribution), and wóaiȟpeye (responsibility).
Re-Opening with Collective Support
Alayna and her team worked with families and knowledge keepers on Standing Rock to camp to develop a community teaching schedule and the school was born. The school ran for nearly five months, and though it was often challenging given the circumstances, it was a place of great beauty and community where kids learned, helped make the camp work, and celebrated who they were and the movement they were a part of.
The Camp school taught us that something better was possible for kids on Standing Rock (and everywhere). When the camp ended and the school shut-down, we knew that we needed to continue the vision and open a long-term school here.
With continued, collective support from Standing Rock community members, we have persevered and will re-open our Wouŋspe.
Wówaŋyaŋke - Vision
Mní Wičhóni Nakíčižiŋ Wouŋspe (MWNW, or the Defenders of the Water School) will help transform the Standing Rock Nation by providing community-based Indigenized education services to interested high school students. Our students can earn high school credit for completing instructional projects that are responsive to community needs. Our dream is to help the younger generation learn to be nation builders fluent in Lakota language and culture.
Mní Wičhóni Nakíčižiŋ Owáyawa (Defenders of the Water School) will help transform the Standing Rock nation by teaching holistic wellness, Lakota/Dakota language and culture, nation rebuilding, and environmental and social justice. Our students will be prepared to succeed in a wide range of post-secondary opportunities through transdisciplinary, self-led project-based learning experiences.
Our school embodies Mitákuye Owás’iŋ as a commitment to otákuye wičhóȟ’aŋ (relationships), awáŋkičhiyaŋka (reciprocity), phiphíya kpamní (redistribution), and wóaiȟpeye (responsibility) to each other, other walks of life, and to the land. These four values are shared equally by all teachers and all students in their roles at Mní Wičhóni Nakíčižiŋ Owáyawa.