Education

A new school year begins for the students of Daposka Ahnkodapi, ‘Our School’

Students returned to Daposka Ahnkodapi Elementary on Aug. 19 for the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. CODY HAMMER/Osage News

School is back in session and students at Daposka Ahnkodapi, the Osage Nation’s school, are looking forward to a great year.

It’s been six years since Daposka Ahnkodapi welcomed its first class of students, but this year is a little different. It’s the first year that “Our School” opened its doors as a fully accredited private school by the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

“Now that we are an accredited school, the challenge will be to meet academic standards. This will require commitment from all of us here to keep the students on task and engaged. We are hoping to have more educational field trips this year, but we will have to see how Covid plays out,” said Patrick Martin, Daposka Ahnkodapi Superintendent.

The first day of school was Aug. 19 and they welcomed more than 50 students, all Osage or Native American. This is the most students the school has ever had. Martin said there are many hopes for the upcoming school year.

“I hope that we establish an academic routine and that each child progresses at their level. I hope that each child becomes comfortable using the Osage Language and that all the teachers use language throughout the day in their classrooms,” he said. “I hope that the students form friendships with each other and support each other here at school. I hope the parents support the teachers and the children benefit from a strong educational environment both here and at home.”

He said the greatest challenge the school will face this year is battling COVID-19. Last year brought many difficulties for students and their families, with some students missing so much school they fell behind academically. This has caused some students to repeat classes, but he said it’s not the student’s fault. Many of their family members became ill and whole families had to quarantine for extended periods of time.

Daposka Ahnkodapi follows the mask mandate set forth by Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear. All teachers wear face masks, as well as the students. Martin said it is their goal to make a safe and healthy environment for the students and they do that by wearing masks, encouraging adult vaccinations, washing hands and doing their best to keep a germ-free building.

Aside from the private school accreditation they received, he said one of the greatest parts of Daposka Ahnkodapi is their cultural curriculum.

“We had a ‘Cave Man,’ Eric Fuller, come to teach about ancestral herbs and plants, Osage stories, archery and language. We also had horseback riding lessons for the older students that lasted six weeks,” he said. “We hope to continue these things as well as add visits from elders who we will invite to share Osage stories with our children.”

Martin said he is grateful that all the school’s teachers stayed on to continue the school’s unique journey in education.

According to the school’s handbook, the school staff includes: 

Denise Keene – Early Education Curriculum Developer

Cameron Pratt – Osage Language and Curriculum development

Destinie Lookout – 4th/5th Grade Homeroom, Social Studies and Science (1st-5th)

Erika Cole – 3rd Grade Homeroom, Reading (1st-5th)

Melissa Kizziar – 1st/2nd Grade Homeroom, Math (1st-5th)

Frankee Hammer – Kindergarten

Lacey Hufft – Pre-K

Dora Williams – Infant

Megan Webb – Infant

Autumn Hall – Toddler

Madison Nation – Toddler

Mary Jacobs – Toddler and Elementary Substitute

Derrick Hammer – P.E. Teacher

Cheri Towell – 1st/2nd Grade Teacher Assistant

Kim Freeman – Cook

According to the school’s website, 𐓈𐒰𐓄𐓂𐓆𐒼𐒰 𐒰⌃𐒼𐓂𐓈𐒰𐓬𐒻 (Our School), is an educational facility serving Osage children ranging in age from 6 weeks old through 5th grade. 𐓈𐒰𐓄𐓂𐓆𐒼𐒰 𐒰⌃𐒼𐓂𐓈𐒰𐓬𐒻 provides a place where children can begin to learn the Osage language, at a preverbal age, by hearing the Osage language spoken for several hours each day. By immersing students in the Osage language and culture and providing them with opportunities to explore and learn each day, their self-esteem and Osage identity of our next generation will be strengthened.

The ultimate goal of 𐓈𐒰𐓄𐓂𐓆𐒼𐒰 𐒰⌃𐒼𐓂𐓈𐒰𐓬𐒻 is to expand the facility to include Osage children from ages 6 weeks through 12th grade, according to the school’s website.