A Vision Became Reality: Construction Completion at the Lakota Waldorf School Isabel Stadnik

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota is located in one of the poorest counties in the United States. It is home to roughly 42,000 Oglala Lakota. Parents cannot afford tuition; therefore, The Lakota Waldorf School depends completely on the generous donations of individuals, foundations, and corporations.


As the only Native American, tuition-free Waldorf school, we rely on the generosity of our supporters to keep our doors open. We believe that all children have a right to quality education, regardless of their familys financial status. That is why our priority is to remain tuition-free. Your financial support can help us provide Waldorf education, revive Lakota language and culture, and create a better future for our children.


Your contribution is deeply appreciated and can be sent to:


Lakota Waldorf School

P.O. Box 527

Three Mile Creek

Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

Kyle, SD. 57752


You can also make your gift through our website: www.lakotawaldorfschool.org

Contact us directly at info@lakotawaldorfschool.org


This year, 2023, the Lakota Waldorf School is celebrating thirty years since its founding, and at the same time, we are celebrating the opening of a long-awaited new school building.


The Lakota Waldorf School is located on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, on the Land of the Oglala Lakota Nation, also called the Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST). It is situated in one of the most impoverished counties in the USA. Thirty years ago, in 1993, a small group of parents and community members started a kindergarten in a small house with a kitchen, bathroom, and office. Over the last ten years, the school grew rapidly from a kindergarten to a K-8th grade school. With this growth, the need for more classrooms arose. We heard of the architect Jeff Dickinson, who designed a strawbale Waldorf school in Carbondale, Colorado, and contacted him. In 2016, Jeff Dickinson agreed to work with us and designed the master plan for our campus construction project.


The Lakota Waldorf School is the only Native American Waldorf school in the country and the only Waldorf School on a reservation. As many families are low-income, we are tuition-free. Therefore, the school depends 100% on donations and grants. It seemed to be an impossible goal to raise more than two million dollars for campus construction in addition to the funding for the school operation. Therefore, we developed a strategy to split the construction into three phases: 1a, 1b, and 2. This structure allowed us to build as we raised funding.


The whole process of construction and fundraising lasted seven years, from 2016- 2023. We had to overcome many obstacles on this journey, and the biggest was the last phase. It was important to us to hire local builders from the reservation to keep the money in the community. Many organizations hire construction companies from outside the reservation simply because they are better equipped but charge more due to the longer distance. Our goal was for the dollar to stay within the reservation. A local company that started Phase 2 stopped in the middle of the process, which caused not only a delay but also some funding losses. But Rusty’s construction company from Kyle, South Dakota, and his workers picked the construction up and completed the campus by August 2023.


Other pieces had to be put together like a puzzle. In May 2023, the senior class from the Washington Waldorf school arrived to complete their volunteer project. Our wish was for them to lazure the new building, and under instructions from Charles Andrade, they managed to lazure almost all of the office and the main building. Another foundation donated lights for the first floor, and several foundations and donors gave grants for the kitchen equipment, the floor, and the general construction. These gifts made possible what seemed to be impossible.


All the major contributors were at the grand opening on August 10, 2023. Parents and community members celebrated the beautiful building with its warm colors and forms. Most of the external walls are built with strawbales and stucco, which provides ideal isolation from the extreme cold winters, the blizzards, and the hot summers.


The shape of the building is a mirror of the soft, wide landscape of the plains. Many children of the Pine Ridge Reservation live in very poor housing and trailers. For them, it is a most deserved new experience to learn and grow in this beautiful building filled with warmth, harmony, and beauty.


Today, the sound of laughter, Lakota songs, and little feet scurrying through our new hallways is bringing spirit into what would otherwise be an empty space. The smell of freshly baked bread and simmering berry stew wafts from our new kitchen through the classrooms, making everyone feel at home. It is an absolute gift to witness this.


BIO: Isabel Stadnick is the school administrator and director of development at the Lakota Waldorf School. She is one of the school’s founders and has been part of the community for over thirty years. Originally from Switzerland, where she attended a Waldorf school and studied at the Goethanum, she traveled in 1989 to the Pine Ridge Reservation and married a member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe. With dedication and love for the Lakota people, along with a strong connection to the children and the Lakota culture, Isabel has dedicated her life to building a Lakota Waldorf community within the Pine Ridge reservation. She has a degree in fundraising management from the School of Management and Law in Switzerland and an AA in Lakota Studies from the Oglala Lakota College in Kyle, SD. She has been the administrator of the Lakota Waldorf School since 2008 and participates regularly in professional development courses, including the Waldorf Administration and Leadership Development through the Center for Anthroposophy in Keene, NH. Today, both her daughters are trained Waldorf teachers and are a part of the Lakota Waldorf faculty.