may expand to include high school for girls on the Pine Ridge Indian
High Wolf, 12 holds a diagram of Lakota Star Knowledge in
the science classroom at Anpo Wicahpi Girls School. (photo
by Mary Annette Pember)
"It is not a question of if our students will go to college;
it is a question of which college they will attend," said Cindy
Giago, Oglala Lakota, head of Anpo Wicahpi Pine Ridge Girls' School
on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
Anpo Wicahpi, Morning Star, signifies new beginnings in the
language and is believed to be a source of strength for young
women according to school leaders. Described as the first school
of its kind by Anpo Wicahpi founders, the private school finished
out its first year in Spring 2017 with 14 students from grades 6
According to Giago, girls learn best in an all-girl environment.
A girls' school actively counteracts the negative and potentially
dangerous influences of mass media and troubling
depictions of women.
"It's easier to be yourself around other girls. We can talk
openly about our health and our bodies," said Anpo Wicahpi student
Tara Rouillard, 13.
"Our school is a safe haven for girls. It's not only a college
preparatory school with rigorous academic standards but also a place
where girls can identify with the positive aspects of being Lakota,"
For Lakota, constellations in the sky correspond with things
to be done on earth. These sacred site visits are part of the students'
women had the "final say" in community decisions, but the fallout
from colonization and the boarding school era has served to diminish
that traditional role Giago noted.
Many of the girls who come to Anpo Wicahpi may have struggled
at other schools on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation according
At Anpo Wicahpi, girls learn about traditional Lakota teachings
and spirituality with the help and guidance of leaders such as Ethleen
Ironcloud Two Dogs and her husband Rick Two Dogs. Ironcloud Two
Dogs is also one of the founding members of the school.
Knowing Lakota traditions and spirituality helps the girls call
to their spirits in times of need and helps foster resilience, according
from left, are: Tara Rouillard, 13, Aaliyah Giago, 12, and
Breiana High Wolf, 12, proudly displaying the brain tanned
buffalo hide they made as part of coursework at the Pine Ridge
Girls' School. (photo by Mary Annette Pember)
by a 6th grade student at Anpo Wicahpi Pine Ridge Girls' School.
(photo by Mary Annette Pember)
Although Lakota lifeways shape girls education at Anpo Wicahpi,
the curriculum is academically rigorous, adopted from Anpo Wicahpi's
sister schools, the Young Women's
Leadership Network, a non-profit organization that began providing
girls growing up in low-income communities with a high quality college
preparatory education modeled on the finest private schools and
the Archer School for Girls
in Los Angeles.
Anpo Wicahpi school board chair Victoria Shorr is co-founder
of the Archer School for Girls. Archer
school, founded in 1995, is known for its emphasis on incorporating
research on ways that girls learn, develop and thrive into its curriculum
School leaders cite data from UNESCO, United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization, that educated girls can help
counteract problems like those found on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation,
health issues, poverty,
According to the National
Coalition of Girls Schools, nearly 80 percent of graduates from
girls' school hold leadership positions after high school.
from left: Breiana High Wolf, 12, Tara Rouillard, 13, and
Aaliyah Giago, 12, shoot some hoops on the basketball court
at Pine Ridge Girls' School. (photo by Mary Annette Pember)
Anpo Wicahpi expects at least 20 students for the upcoming school
year and will include classes for the 8th grade as well. Last year,
several students who lived far from the school on the large Pine
Ridge Indian Reservation found it easier to board at the school
during the week.
"At first it was temporary, but they liked staying here so much
that we will continue to offer boarding to those who need it," Giago
Although, the school currently serves girls in grades 6-8, Giago
reported that leaders hope to expand capacity to include high school
"It is believed that women are the backbone of the Lakota Nation;
they nourish and nurture the minds, hearts and spirits of the people.
As Lakota girls go through their stages of life, they are educated
and provided teaching so that they will become 'Winuhcala' dear
and precious female sources of strength," says the Anpo Wicahpi
website about the history of Lakota women on the Pine Ridge Indian
Wicahpi - The Pine Ridge Girls' School
Through an academically rigorous program grounded in Lakota culture,
language, and values, The Pine Ridge Girls's School aims to empower
the young women of Pine Ridge by fostering self-respect, a love
of learning, and leadership qualities to help them serve and shape