Native American Day Activities

Monday, October 14, St. Joseph’s Indian School – along with the rest of South Dakota – celebrated Native American Day. We, along with several other schools around our area, embraced the opportunity to have a “teachable moment” while having fun reliving a part of our rich Lakota/Dakota/Nakota culture.

The Regalia Relay was one of many games St. Joseph’s students played in celebration of Native American Day.
In the Regalia Relay, the Lakota boys put on girls’ regalia and vise versa to dance their way back to their teammates.

The morning greeted us with a line of colored banners carried by students who read a brief description about the corresponding color and direction of the medicine wheel.  Bridges were built between the Catholic and tribal spiritualities by centering ourselves with prayer and singing the hymn “There is a Well.”  Our drum group offered up two prayer songs to honor the day and what it might mean to our people.

During the afternoon, classes circulated around eight game stations to compete against themselves, others and groups.  Our stations included:

  • Lakota bowling
  • Hackie sack
  • Regalia relay (switch dressing – the boys put on girls’ regalia and girls put on boys’ regalia)
  • Leg wrestling
  • Arrow toss
  • Hand games
  • Musical chairs (with drum songs)
  • Cat’s cradle yarn art
  • Storytelling

Each game was explained with its historical significance and natural place in our world.  A plethora of adults helped to make the day possible by guiding, encouraging, and even taking part with the group as the students scurried through the rain and mist between the recreation center, the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center and the skating room.

I hope our St. Joseph’s students went home knowing why this day was set aside for our tribal people to be honored for our place on this North American Continent, rather than focusing on someone who thought they had found India.  We love the land and the culture that respects our footprints upon it.

LaRayne, Native American Studies teacher

The Lakota students learned to leg wrestle during Native American Day activities.
Leg wrestling was one of many games played in traditional Lakota (Sioux) culture.

Summer Day Camp with LaRayne

Hi everyone! LaRayne here, St. Joseph’s Native American Studies teacher. Each year, I work into the summer, providing Native American Studies for the Lakota children who attend day camp.

The Lakota students love playing outdoor games at day camp!
Erika and the other girls line up for dodge ball.

Giving and Receiving is going around St. Joseph’s Day Camp. I wish that you could all see the relationships building between our campers and staff at St. Joseph’s Indian School! The whole group is like a sponge; taking in the learning, loving and living that happens all day long.

The staff and kids get to eat breakfast together and answer questions like “what’s your favorite movie?” and “Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?”

The kids are eager to get to know our young camp counseling staff, and staff members are just as eager to make the day’s experience meaningful for all.  After breakfast, the kids play games together or learn about more of their Lakota culture through Native American Studies.

This year, the kids are playing Lakota hand games and we are reading several books that pertain to the daily lesson, like creating star knowledge constellations, painting horse designs. We are also touring the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center on our campus and learning about dream catchers, hair braiding, Lakota songs, colors, numbers, and ledger art.  Through all of these activities, the campers and counselors learn a little bit about each other and even about themselves.  Sharing in learning, arts and crafts, swimming, playing and eating are great ways to spend the day!

Visiting the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center is a great educational experience for the Native American children who attend day camp.
The boys and girls learn about their Lakota (Sioux) culture as part of day camp as well.

I especially like that three of my four daughters have been able to give back to our organization by being a part of our day camp.  To watch my girls spend time with our day campers is good for my spirit and drives me to understand why we are here doing the work we do.

We are striving to create a great day for our day campers and, in the middle of it all, we get to feed our spirits with the gifts the Lakota children bring each day as well.

Track Season is underway!

In addition to track, St. Joseph’s Native American students participate in football, volleyball and basketball.
The St. Joseph’s Braves 2013 Track Team

Our sixth, seventh and eighth-grade students were able to represent St. Joseph’s Indian School in their first track meet of the year on Monday, April 29.  We do not have official results; however, we brought home seven ribbons between eight kids!

Track offers the Lakota boys and girls lessons in both teamwork and individual accomplishments.
Bryan looks on as Craig makes his throw.

It is always a learning experience for the rookies.  We called to have shoes, lunches and water sent to the field for those who did not realize how important these necessities are to pack or ask their houseparents to pack for them.

We have several Lakota boys throwing the shot put and discus.  Our Recreation Center Director is an old hand at this, so Bryan is a great role model and motivator for these boys.  Our Native American Studies teacher, LaRayne, stresses the important of endurance when it comes to running your hardest, giving your best and finishing the race with a smile.

At the end of the day, we had some tired, but smiling, happy kids who were glad that our South Dakota spring weather cooperated so that we could showcase our talent to those outside of St. Joseph’s Indian School.

St. Joseph’s offers track and other sports to keep the Lakota children active.
Anthony lets the shot put fly.

Preparing eighth graders for graduation

We are looking forward to graduation for our eighth grade class in a couple of months. I am proud to say that I have had many of these Lakota students since they were in their younger elementary years at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

St. Joseph’s eighth grade graduates receive a small medicine wheel and feather as a gift.
The Lakota eighth graders craft small medicine wheels, which are a gift to their classmates at graduation.

This time of year, I have the honor of helping them to prepare their class banner, make their medicine wheels (which are used in the graduation ceremony) and prepare them for life after St. Joseph’s.

Each class of Lakota eighth graders creates a banner to commemorate their class.
After graduation, eighth grader banners hang in St. Joseph’s Rec Center.

One of the more enjoyable items I share with them is giving them their eighth grade portfolio.  This portfolio encompasses all of their works from the time they entered my Native American Studies room until they graduate.  It is so fun to hand back papers and watch them look through their past years of learning!  I can hear them sharing their drawings and writings with each other.  The giggles and smiles reinforce the reason I have them create the portfolios.

The students made their personal portfolio out of brown paper bag and yarn.  They are modeled after the par fleche containers Lakota/Dakota/Nakota (Sioux) people used long ago.   The containers from long ago were made of rawhide and sinew.  Today, we make them in a much more inexpensive, modern way.

In the past, the par fleche was decorated with tribal designs specific to one’s tribe and tiyospayeextended family.  This made it easy to return a lost container to its rightful owner, much like luggage tags today.  The par fleche carries meaning and a lot of knowledge of each St. Joseph’s student.

Building Relationships through a Community Hair Shop!

The older Lakota girls fixed hair for the younger girls.
Listella ties Araya’s hair for curls.

We invited our inter-city girls basketball players from the Chamberlain School (6-8 grade) to what we called a community hair shop.  The purpose of this time was to share our talents and to learn a hair style – braiding or rag tie curling – so that when our St. Joseph’s students take part in a powwow or a dance event, they will have more people who can fix their hair the way they like it done.

We started with seven of our high school girls fixing the hair of our inter-city girls.  In return the, the inter-city girls fixed hair for St. Joseph’s girls in grades one through five.  We also invited staff and their families to take part in this exciting event.

We had about 60 girls (maybe more!) take part in our hair shop.  Everyone had a grand time!

At St. Joseph’s community hair shop, the girls wait for their styles to set.
After having their hair tied for curls, Shawna, Alyssa and Freddie let their styles set.

Guest Blogger: LaRayne

We have been waiting to allow our Native American students to take part in what used to be a very common, easily created ceremony.  With a burn ban in effect since the summer here in South Dakota, and without a staff person to be able to pour water for the sacred ceremony, Inipi – the Lakota rite of purification – was a rare occurrence at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

We now have a Cultural Specialist on staff to help our students, families and staff learn more about the culture of our Oceti Sakowin people.

Dave came to us in September. In the classroom, he has taught us to play the old hand games and has also worked with the boys and girls on the drum. He shares as much as he can to help staff learn too.

In addition to spending time in classrooms, Dave pours water for the Inipi ceremony. He was able to do this for our older boys (sixth grade through high school) just days after the burn ban was lifted.  It is a ceremony of prayer.  All areas of living beings are a part:  rocks, people, four legged and winged.  It is a gateway to learning more language and culture for our students.

We will take Dave’s expertise to the Lakota Nation Invitational in the hand games competition on December 21.  A group of students who have grasped the hand game songs and way of playing will travel to Rapid City, South Dakota for the day and then off for a long Christmas break.  We’ll let you know how they fair at the games!

Guest Blogger: LaRayne

Native American girl enjoying a Lakota game.
Tasha had so much fun playing new hand games!

Our new Cultural Specialists brings Hand Games to St. Joseph’s Indian School.

David Z. is bringing knowledge, fun and more culture to St. Joseph’s Indian School! Dave is an elder who carries knowledge from a variety of areas.  One of the areas is in the songs of the Lakota (Sioux).  He sings at the drum for ceremonies, wacipispowwows – and also knows hand games.

We plan on taking a team of students to the Lakota Nation Invitational in December for hand games; the students are very excited about this opportunity!  On Monday, October 8, we celebrated Native American Day in South Dakota. At St. Joseph’s, we played hand games during our Native American Studies classes. This day also served as a try out for the traveling hand game team. Students are asked to learn a hand game song and the rules that apply to the game.

On a broader scale, Dave will be helping spread culture, knowledge and curriculum to the organization as a whole.  We look forward to the opportunity for Dave, the students, our organization and communities near and far.

Guest Blogger: LaRayne

Two Native American girls take a break from powwow practice!
Laurissa and Shawnna take a break from powwow dance practice to smile for the camera!

We are all looking forward to hosting many visitors and friends at our 36th annual St. Joseph’s Indian School Powwow! We are busy having dance practices with St. Joseph’s students.  To date, we have around sixty kids who plan on dancing at our annual powwow.  This number always increases as powwow nears.

The favorite style for the girls is fancy shawl and the boys like grass the best. The dances look simple and easy, but when it comes to being judged at the powwow, there are several elements that come into play.  Not only the foot and body work, but hands, head and accessories also play a part in the judging process.  Having beadwork on one’s regalia is also a plus for the judge’s eye.

Because many of our Native American students only dance at our powwow, it is a challenge to convince them that they must “showcase” themselves to the judges in order to gain points.  All in all, it is a fun time practicing and dancing at our annual powwow.

Our staff are also preparing for powwow.  This is one organization that comes together for one of our many great events of the year.  It is great to see staff, families and our students along with the community, friends and donors share in a great cultural experience.

Guest Blogger: LaRayne

Kids working on a craft at day camp!
Can you guess what they are making?

Hello everyone, my  name is LaRayne. I’d  like to give you a recap of St. Joseph’s Indian School’s Rising Eagle Day Camp. (Check out pictures here!)

Summer camp is a different time around St. Joseph’s Indian School.  It is a time for new faces, old faces and a time for building a lot of new relationships.  I have the pleasure of sharing some Native American cultural lessons with a twist of arts and crafts added to them.  Each day is precious.

Having a class of 30 students is something I am not used to, but I have the help of some great young adult counselors who chose to share part of their summer with our day camp kids.  It is great to have the help when we tackle making medicine pouches in one day, or learning to hoop dance in one morning.

St. Joseph’s Indian School campus becomes the village that raises the child for the day.  We have caregivers, teachers, counselors, lifeguards, food service workers, recreation specialists and good ‘ol supervisors who look after the camp-goers each day.

I especially enjoy seeing former students, meeting new students, and talking to some students who hope to come to our school in the future.  This camp brings together many good things.  It is somewhat like a powwow.  We celebrate, dance, create, build relationships, eat, play, and focus on culture.  Yes, each day is precious in the life of a child.

Hec’etu kstothat’s the way it is….

Don’t forget to check out the pictures!

Eighth grade banner art

Native American kids painting a banner.
A couple of the kids working on their 2012 class banner.

Since 1977, the eighth grade graduates of St. Joseph’s Indian School created a banner. The banner includes the class motto and is an original design created by the class. In 1984, classes began adding their names to the banner. Some classes have full names, but most have included first names only.

The design and motto for the banner are chosen by submissions from members of the class. The 2012 motto reads:

“We are strong as individuals, but as a class we are invincible.”

The design came from the heart of one of the 2012 graduates, Mia, who said this is something she sees as a vision. The flowing satin star, the feathers on the sides and the motto wrapped around it is what she would like to have representing her class in St. Joseph’s recreation center. The recreation center has displayed the banners since 1977.

The kids help with almost all of the construction of the banner. They paint, cut, repaint and cut again as well as glue, sew and rethink their work through this process of forming what will represent them for years to come.

If you ever visit St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus, please come and view the banners in our recreation center.