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Wokini Student Center

Wokini Initiative

The Wokini Initiative is SDSU’s collaborative and holistic framework to support American Indian student success and Indigenous Nation-building. Ongoing collaboration between key campus and tribal stakeholders is central to the Wokini framework. The Initiative builds upon SDSU’s current tribal partnerships and American Indian Student Center services to:

  1. Enhance cultural programming and support for American Indian students.
  2. Offer Wokini scholarships for students are tribally enrolled through a federally recognized tribe in the United States including Alaskan Natives.
  3. Enhance research and outreach partnerships with tribes, tribal colleges and other tribal organizations.

The Wokini Initiative is SDSU’s collaborative and holistic framework to support American Indian student success and Indigenous Nation-building. Collaboration between key campus and tribal stakeholders is central to the Wokini framework:

  • American Indian students, families and elders.
  • American Indian Student Center.
  • American Indian studies.
  • Academic Affairs.
  • Student Affairs.
  • Fundraising and student scholarships.
  • Research and scholarship.
  • Tribal colleges and universities.
  • Tribal outreach and partnership.
  • President’s Wokini Advisory Council.

Mission Statement

As a land-grant university, South Dakota State University's (SDSU) mission is to serve the state of South Dakota by providing access to the benefits of higher education for all people. SDSU strives to better serve South Dakota's American Indian population. In order to achieve this goal, SDSU established the Wokini Initiative. In Lakota, the word "wokini" translates to "new life" or "a new beginning" and the Wokini Initiative is a new beginning for SDSU. The focus of the Initiative is to increase the number of American Indian students, provide support towards academic and personal needs and boost American Indian graduation rates.

Vision Statement

SDSU is a place where American Indian students achieve their dreams and aspirations, and as an institution, SDSU promotes healthy, synergistic, sustained relationships with the tribal communities of South Dakota.

Wokini Initiative a new beginning. Is a collaborative and holistic framework to support American Indian students success and Indigenous Nation-Building.


South Dakota State University was founded in 1881 and gained land-grant status in 1889, and with it the mission to provide access and opportunities for anyone to pursue the benefits of education. While 9 percent of South Dakota’s population is identified as American Indian or Alaskan Native, less than 1 percent of the state’s largest university student body represents this demographic. This disparity is consequential for those enrolled in South Dakota’s tribes, the university and the state-at-large.

The Wokini Initiative will align opportunities for students to pursue degrees that will impact the students, their communities and their tribes while recognizing the importance of family and culture. South Dakota State University offers more than 180 majors, minors and specializations—providing endless possibilities to create knowledge, unique partnerships with tribal colleges and a collaborative environment that will benefit everyone and establish priorities between tribal communities, the tribal members and the rest of the state.

Funding for the Wokini Initiative will be through private donations to the SDSU Foundation and revenue generated by land as part of the South Dakota Permanent Trust Fund. Much of that land exists in the western part of the state and was claimed in 1887 by the federal government as part of the Dawes Act, assigning 160,000 acres to the state of South Dakota to support its new land-grant college and agricultural experiment station.

The trust was established at statehood with the intent of providing a continuous source of revenue for public schools, universities and endowed institutions. The revenue comes from interest generated in the fund on land that was either sold or is being leased and is used for base funding purposes. The fund’s principal can be increased, but never diminished.

In 2016 SDSU had $548,451 returned to the university from the trust fund, money that can benefit enrolled tribal members to support educational opportunities and growth and serve as a catalyst for a sustained source of program funding.

SDSU staff and faculty will collaborate and consult Dakota and Lakota members of tribal communities, tribal leaders and the four tribal colleges in South Dakota to support educational opportunities and growth to make the Wokini Initiative a success.

The Wokini Initiative will have programming on the SDSU campus, as well as throughout the state.

Examples of on-campus programs include:

Off-campus Wokini programming may include:

The Wokini Initiative is designed to support existing programs at SDSU while allowing for the creation of new programs and partnerships.

  • Support programs and expanded network structured to prepare, attract, enroll, retain and graduate enrolled tribal members at SDSU.
  • Scholarships for students who are enrolled members of federally recognized tribes.
  • A new American Indian Student Center.
  • Preservation of language and art, two critically important aspects of the Lakota and Dakota cultures.
    • Collaborative research projects focused on needs of native communities.
    • Adult leadership development programs designed around the structure and function of tribal governments to improve economic development within tribal communities.

Wokini Initiative Events

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Sep 21

AISC Scholarship Reception

Wokini Initiative News

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Graduate Student Appreciation Week

Graduate students make up about 10% of the student population across 57 graduate programs and 29 graduate certificates offered at South Dakota State University. Each graduate student is immersed in research and scholarship with the support of their advisor and the Graduate School staff.

SDSU to host ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ Community Read events

A series of events featuring the bestselling book “Killers of the Flower Moon” this semester will culminate April 5, when author David Grann will give a lecture on the South Dakota State University campus. The events — Community Read discussions, a free movie screening and the author lecture — are all part of SDSU’s School of English and Interdisciplinary Studies’ first-ever Community Read.
Chef Sean Sherman, also known as "The Sioux Chef," cooks in his Minneapolis-based kitchen.

Griffith Honors Forum Lecture to feature ‘The Sioux Chef’

Chef Sean Sherman, also known as “The Sioux Chef,” will host a virtual conversation with an audience at South Dakota State University about his role in helping reclaim and celebrate the rich culinary heritage of Indigenous communities around the world. The livestream of the Griffith Honors Forum Lecture featuring Sherman will start at 7 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Oscar Larson Performing Arts Center.