In 2021, the average cost of school supplies was up to $800 per student. Even if the shopping list is shorter, the cost can be unmanageable for many families on the reservations, where stores are sparse and supplies on shelves limited.
Through the American Indian Education Fund (AIEF), a program of Partnership With Native Americans, thousands of K-12 students receive basic school supplies and backpacks needed to begin another school year, and last year this included a group of children from Eagle Butte, South Dakota.
The mom, Melissa of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, has six children. Her oldest three have graduated high school, including Weston who received AIEF school supplies in 2009 and graduated high school this year. The kids still at home want to follow in their footsteps.
Culturally and recreationally, Melissa’s family usually participates in events like the Bigfoot Ride, honoring their ancestors killed during the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890. Melissa grew up riding bareback on wild horses, and her kids Marni and Braxton both want to do professional rodeo when they grow up.
Braxton, age 14, is already well on his way with rodeo as he heads into the ninth grade, even after a month of hospitalization last year from a bull kick that busted three of his ribs and deflated a lung. But now, he’s back on his feet and plans to join every sport available, including football, basketball, and track. He’s also excited to take classes on welding, electronics, and mechanics. Braxton told us that his favorite item from last year’s AIEF school supplies was the paper he uses to take notes and do his homework.
Marni, age 11, also plans to ride bulls once she’s old enough. This year, she’s trying out for cheerleading and volleyball and is most excited for her sixth-grade math classes. She also has an artistic side, using some of the AIEF notebooks she received to draw whenever she has free time.
John, Jr. also loves his notebooks. He is a shy 7-year-old but knows that he wants to be a police officer just like his grandpa. He heads into the second grade this year and is excited to meet his new teacher.
Melissa says last year’s AIEF school supplies came in handy, “We didn’t have the money to buy the supplies. It’s a wonderful thing that AIEF does. A lot of families can’t afford things like that, and we were able to use the money we saved for school clothes.”
PWNA and its AIEF program provide school supplies and backpacks for children in need with the help of our generous supporters and our Program Partners on the reservation. Braxton, Marni, and John, Jr. offer a big “thank you” to friends like you for their school supplies this year!