FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                  

                                                                                                                        March 25, 2021


By John Beheler

Marty, SD. – At a recent meeting of the Marty Indian School Board, an official resolution was drafted to support significant campus renovations and the possible construction of an entirely new campus. The good news was the result of efforts to bring the older school facilities into compliance with building codes and more recent CDC recommendations.

“The process actually began in February when the school submitted a Building Condition Assessment”, says John Zephier, Special Projects Manager. “We identified all of the deficiencies over the years and then submitted a video that expressed our needs.” Together, the Assessment and Needs Video received the attention of the Bureau of Indian Education who placed Marty Indian School on the Site Assessment and Capital Investment Program list.  

Marty provides residential services to students attending from over 14 Tribal Nations throughout the Northern Plains. In March, when the pandemic arrived, dormitory students had to return home as the dorms were not adequately equipped with HVAC (air conditioning) units. Since then, exhaust fans and air purification filters have been installed and students have returned.

Most of the current campus buildings were constructed by Catholic Indian Mission efforts nearly a hundred years ago. Cast iron heaters provide steam-generated heat to the older part of the campus which includes the Administration, dormitories and Cultural Center. The steam causes the walls to sweat and together with stagnant air flow, creates conditions for mold. Installing an HVAC would allow for quality airflow but would require an electrical upgrade to support the added electricity load. Providing an electrical upgrade would also support the installation of elevators to bring the three-storied dormitories into ADA compliance.

The Bureau of Indian Education conducts annual site visits to assess property condition and maintenance needs. The onset of the pandemic has shed light on the need for quality airflow but also opened up avenues of discussing all of the deficiencies compiled over the years.  Ultimately, facility and maintenance decisions are based on student safety and the feasibility of making repairs or upgrades versus replacing altogether.

Over the years, Marty has also dealt with flooding issues due to the school’s location. Civic engineers would be required to divert the flow of water away from the current school which was built in a flash flood zone. Due to location, access to technology has also been limited and can be tied to safety response time.

According to Zephier, the criteria for placement on the BIE Site Assessment and Capital Investment Program list of schools is based on the age of facilities or whether students are attending school in portable buildings. It has been 20 years since Marty constructed their current High school. The move became necessary as the previous buildings contained asbestos and lead paint. Along with the current High School, a temporary modular or portable Elementary school was also built.

The growth of any school can be directly attributed to new facilities, course offerings or student programs. Families appreciate a school’s investment in education while students enjoy the amenities of new gymnasiums, football stadiums or technological advances. Over the years, enrollment at Marty Indian has fluctuated from a peak of over 400 students to the current 10-year average of 291 students.

Tribal schools receive federal funding based on a three-year enrollment average while area public schools thrive on Impact Aid funding received for Native American student in attendance. For Marty Indian School, construction of new facilities is a competitive process that involves over 150 Bureau of Indian Education schools. Being placed on the short list may happen once every 25 years while neighboring schools can erect facilities on demand.      

Over the past year, the school has witnessed the installation of new boilers, replacement of the High school roof, Elementary school renovations, new sidewalks and removal of galvanized pipe. All of these projects generally reflect the needs of an older campus that requires increased maintenance.         

Like other schools, Marty measures academic achievement through the attainment of content standards required for graduation. The school recently renewed its five-year Accreditation through the Department of Education and is also required to attain BIE School Improvement goals. Marty is the designated “Tribal School” for the Yankton Sioux Tribe and as such, requires additional coursework in Indian Studies and Tribal Government.

The school was recently awarded a five-year Native Connections SAMHSA Grant that focusses on suicide prevention. Brave Strong allows for funding to promote mental wellness, provide counseling and increase cultural integration. Brave Strong Project Director, Amia Moore shares, “At Marty, we believe that students with strong cultural values can find success with whatever path they choose in life.” Brave Strong activities include planting a huge orchard, attending cultural camps, establishing mentor programs and promoting cultural values.

According to Superintendent, John Beheler, “A new Marty Indian School campus allows us to walk in the footsteps of ancestors. Let’s make sure our planning efforts continue to include everything they would’ve wanted for future generations.”    

The Yankton Sioux Tribe and Marty Indian School believes that the Site Assessment and Capital Investment Program provides an opportunity to set expectations high as they develop a clear and equitable strategy to build a new campus that promotes Oceti Sakowin values and supports the academic and cultural development of a growing student population. Hechetu yedo!