Thirty Successful Years of the Lakota Waldorf School

In her book Wanna Waki – My Life with the Lakota, school founder Isabel Stadnick, a Swiss woman, tells the story of marrying a Lakota, and how together they used Waldorf education to revive a dying culture. Decades later, their two daughters Celestine and Caroline graduated from the Waldorf Education training in Dornach, leading to a collaboration that continues today.

“It is remarkable to see how the philosophy and methods of Waldorf education come together internally with the basic teaching practices of indigenous people,” says Caroline Stadnick.

Lakota Waldorf School (LWS) on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. To date, it is the only US Waldorf school on a Native American reservation and the only one that operates solely on donations. This makes LWS accessible to even the poorest families (Pine Ridge Reservation is one of the two poorest regions in the country.) Three years ago, the LWS received federal funding for the first time. In February 2023, the school reached a milestone: after a three-year evaluation, the school was elevated by a Waldorf initiative to become a member school in the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA).

Other Outstanding Developments

In 2019, Celestine Stadnick founded the Academy for Indigenous Waldorf Pedagogy (AIWP). For many years, LWS had to send its teachers far away for Waldorf teacher training, which was often expensive and difficult. Now, in cooperation with the Academy for Anthroposophical Education (AfaP) in Dornach, it is possible for teachers to be trained locally. In recent years, Thomas Stöckli, Gerwin Mader, and Dieter Schaffener (from the AfaP) have helped develop the curriculum alongside Celestine, Caroline, and Isabel Stadnick.

On May 1, 2023, Celestine Stadnick, in partnership with the Lakota Waldorf School and the Oglala Sioux Tribal Education Agency, established the Juvenile Detention Education Program. It is the first educational program to exclusively serve the tribe’s incarcerated youth. Approximately 20 school-age youths are currently incarcerated in the juvenile detention center. For the first time, the program offers them a range of courses in math, science, English, Lakota language and culture, art therapy, and horticulture.

Translation Eliza Rozeboom
Image A student of the Lakota Waldorf School, Source: lws

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