South Dakota State University has held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate plans for a new American Indian Student Center facility on the campus in Brookings.
The university says it was nearly one year ago when South Dakota State President Barry Dunn announced a $4 million anonymous donation to pay the center. Dunn says the facility will enable students to receive the benefits of higher education.
“The facility will recognize American-Indian culture, while supporting students to ensure academic and personal success,” Dunn says.
Prior to the ceremonial groundbreaking, Gene Thin Elk blessed the future site. This is a Native American tradition to connect with Mother Earth.
“As someone coming from the outside, seeing this happen, it’s so humbling, not because of what you’ve accomplished, but because of what you know you are going to accomplish,” Thin Elk says. “Knowing that some of these young people coming in here will be our children and our grandchildren from our indigenous nations to receive a global impacting and world-class education.”
The ceremony took place inside the Architecture, Mathematics and Engineering Building, which is near where the center will be constructed.
Less than 1 percent of the university's student body identifies as American Indian or Alaskan Native.
The center will provide include financial aid, mentoring, paperwork processing and helping students, according to their individual needs. April Eastman, director of the center, says that there aren’t many universities that have such a center.
“To know that not many campuses have a stand-alone facility, let alone a brand-new building, it really does speak to the commitment that SDSU has shown us,” Eastman says.
Video of groundbreaking ceremony: