Brandi Douglas · September 11, 2021

Supporting & Honoring Our Youth: NDN Collective 2nd Annual Backpack Giveaway Draws Hundreds

Students receive school supplies, NDN swag, free COVID-19 vaccines, and sign-up for the Oceti Sakowin Community Academy, opening Fall 2022

On Tuesday, September 7th, NDN Collective hosted our 2nd Annual Backpack Giveaway event at the Mother Butler Center in Rapid City, SD where parents and excited youth arrived to find backpacks filled with school supplies, tables lined with free stainless steel water bottles and NDN Collective t-shirts and sweatshirts, all in preparation for the onset of the school year.

“Giving away is how we connect; It’s how we honor each other,” said Amy Sazue, NDN Collective Education Equity Organizer. “The NDN Collective Education Equity Campaign is able to give back to our community and show them that we’re here for them.”

Amy Sazue, NDN Collective Education Equity Organizer, folding t-shirts that were given away during the backpack giveaway event. Photo by Willi White for NDN Collective.

NDN Collective also provided free COVID-19 vaccinations on-site for students with parental consent, working in conjunction with the Oyate Health Center. Vaccinated students were also eligible to receive a $30 gift card from Rural America Initiatives upon showing their vaccination cards.

Giving away is how we connect. It’s how we honor each other.

Several parents and guardians in attendance also took advantage of the opportunity to pre-enroll children entering kindergarten in the Fall of 2022 into the Oceti Sakowin Community Academy, the Indigenous-led school opening next year by NDN Collective in partnership with the NACA Inspired Schools Network (NISN). This endeavor, an effort to provide a safe and culturally responsive space for Indigenous students to see themselves, their culture and traditions represented in the curriculum, is a far cry from the all-too-often erasure of Indigenous Peoples in education.  

Mary Bowman, NISN Fellow, speaking to youth during the event. Photo by Willi White for NDN Collective.

“Since the inception of compulsory education for Indigenous Peoples, it’s been very traumatic and violent, where language and culture were taken; This type of educational model puts language and culture back in,” said Mary Bowman, NISN Fellow. “It really becomes a type of medicine for our youth to be able to learn who they are and where they come from, and to hear their language.”

“Statistically here in South Dakota and in Rapid City, 30 percent of the student population is Indigenous, but they rarely get to see themselves in what they are learning,” Bowman continued. “They don’t get to see their culture.”

As students exited the gym, leaving the event with their backpacks of supplies and smiles on their faces, we received something back in return here at NDN Collective: the pure joy of seeing our youth affirmed, prepared, and hopefully knowing that they are loved and deeply supported. 

Community members making their way around to tables with give-away items for youth. Photo by Willi White for NDN Collective.

The backpack giveaway event will take place again next year in Rapid City where the NDN Collective headquarters is based. 

Meantime, the call to support the ongoing fight for equity for Native youth continues this coming Monday, September 13th, with the Oceti Sakowin March for Our Children in Pierre, SD– an event organized by the NDN Collective Education Equity Campaign and the South Dakota Education Equity Coalition.

This action is in response to the newly proposed South Dakota Department of Education’s social studies standards which have removed 12 different mentions of the Oceti Sakowin– otherwise known as the related bands of Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people who are Indigenous to this region– ultimately contributing to the ongoing erasure of Indigenous people.

The March will begin at 1pm CST at the Steamboat Park Amphitheater in Pierre, moving past the Capitol and ending at Hilgers Gulch where a rally will ensue at 2pm CST. RSVP for the event HERE.

NDN Collective will be livestreaming the march on Monday on our Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter accounts. Learn more about the march and read the NDN Collective Education Equity campaign demands for the State Department of Education here.


watch the full-length Livestream of the Back Pack Giveaway Event:

RELATED STORY ON THE NDN BLOG: “NDN Collective Responds to Blatant Erasure of Indigenous people in South Dakota Education Standards”

Brandi Douglas
by   Brandi Douglas

Brandi Douglas (she/her), NDN Collective’s Senior Communications Associate, is a Puyallup Tribal member as well as Black and Mexican, from Washington state. In her role, she provides support to the Communications and Narratives Team as well as all aspects of content production and targeted outreach. Brandi is an avid wordsmith, having uplifted various narratives that speak to the experience of being an Indigenous entrepreneur, woman of color and queer. Brandi holds a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies from the University of Washington as well as a master’s degree in Indigenous Peoples Law from the University of Oklahoma.

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