With a focus on oral tradition and spoken word poetry, Dances With Words empowers Indigenous high schoolers, preparing them to become artists and civic leaders who preserve their community’s Lakota culture. Dances With Words works in high schools on and near the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Students attend weekly Dances With Words gatherings where they create spoken word poetry and music. Each month, students participate in an open mic night, an event that is notable for bringing the community together over a significant distance: the high schools are as many as 100 miles apart. With help from an NEH grant, the First Peoples Fund is creating a toolkit for mentors and teachers, which it will provide to other tribal communities in South Dakota and the region along with small grants to help with new program startup costs.
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