Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation opens Chief Aranazhi School

Chief Tony Alexis at the opening of the new Chief Aranazhi School. Screen shot.

By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter 

(ANNews) – Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation held the grand opening for the new Chief Aranazhi School on Jan. 17, with federal Minister of Indigenous Relations Patty Hajdu making her first visit to the nation for the occasion. 

The $20.8-million facility includes a community centre featuring a fitness facility, large gymnasium, commercial kitchen and ceremonial space, as well as an outdoor rink and playground.

The school, which is for students from grades 5 through 12, is named after Mitaushin Aranazhi, or Alexis Akanas, who signed Treaty 6 on behalf of the Nakota People. 

Chief Tony Alexis, speaking at the opening ceremony, reflected on the meaning of Aranazhi’s name, which means “stands alone” in Nakota.

“He stood alone, knowing what our people were going to go through, but he still came to that point of adhering to Treaty, and in spite of the struggles that we’ve had here we are today in 2024 thriving and growing and building our nation,” said Alexis. 

Chief Aranazhi School will place a major emphasis on language revitalization, he added. 

“In the future, we can’t have it where we go to a ceremony and we’re doing that ceremony in English. That’s a no no,” Alexis said. 

“We need to speak our language. We need to have it in that way so that when we speak to the Creator, we’re speaking from our spirit to the Creator and that’s done through our language, our cultural and historical awareness, recognizing who we are as Nakota People.”

The process of building the school, which encountered some difficulties along the way, Alexis said, resulted in the creation of Hill Plain Construction Services, an Alexis Nakota-owned property management company. 

Having this locally owned company will “help make sure that when we build something like this again, it’s going to be our company building it [and] managing it,” the chief said.

“There was a very small percentage of people in our community that helped build this building, and that’s not right. That will never happen again.”

Prior to the ceremony, Chief Alexis took Minister Hajdu on a tour of the Alexis Nakota reserve. 

I can’t tell you the energy that I feel in this community. It’s just so amazing,” said Hajdu. 

“And that’s not to say that, like every community has challenges, every community has barriers in the way in terms of the kinds of objectives that you want to achieve. But this community has passion and fire that I can’t say is rivaled that many times in the country.”

She described the school’s opening as an opportunity to transmit this energy to a new generation of Alexis Nakota people. 

“This is how we break the intergenerational trauma of colonialism right here, right now and you’re doing it,” said Hajdu. 

“The trauma’s deep. No one’s been left untouched by this terrible ongoing experience that First Nations people and Indigenous people have had across this country, but the recovery is dependent on leaders like you. And I mean leaders at all ages, leaders like the young people who are working so hard to learn their language and to be there for their peers.”


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