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Rapid City, South Dakota
Living Oral Traditions on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation
Poets Oriana and Lane at an Open Mic event in June 2017. Image courtesy of Dances With Words.

Poets Oriana and Lane at an Open Mic event in June 2017. Image courtesy of Dances With Words.

With a focus on oral tradition and the spoken word community, Dances With Words empowers high schoolers on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, preparing them to become artists and civic leaders who preserve their community’s Lakota culture. Students learn traditional stories and poetic forms and have the opportunity to create and perform their own poetry and music. In addition to helping participants express themselves and creatively use their voices, Dances With Words situates youth within a strong and nurturing community composed of other teenagers and adult mentors. With help from an NEH humanities access grant, the First Peoples Fund is currently creating a toolkit to help train mentors and a curriculum for teachers who want to deploy the program in their schools. Dances With Words aims to expand into additional high schools and provide small grants for community mentors. Eventually, the First Peoples Fund will provide the toolkit to other tribal communities in South Dakota and the region.

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