Loom beadwork of our Native American youth

Native American loom beading.
Native American loom beading.

Every year, I get to teach an area of Lakota (Sioux) culture that is close to my hands and heart-loom beading.

The 7th grade class has begun the task of learning what it takes to make those beautifully created drops for regalia, barrettes, hair ties, name plates, bracelets and whatever other ideas the kids come up with in their minds and hearts.

We begin with looking at some old and new pieces of beadwork so that the kids can see examples of what they can make.  Some of these items are decades old and some are as new as last year. I also encourage our Native American youth to take a deeper look at any piece of beadwork they come in contact with in their world.

My objectives are many.  I want the kids to connect culture to their hearts, of course; but also to see the difference between designs from tribe to tribe.  Our Lakota (Sioux) designs are very geometric and math is a big part of loom beading.  Counting, centering, dividing, designing, measuring and creating are all a part of this project.  I also encourage understanding the colors and what they may mean to different tribes, individuals and cultures.  The final product is very rewarding for me and the students.  The loom pieces are given as gifts, worn or used for themselves and some are sold to staff for a little extra spending money.  This is also a part of the objectives.  This is an art our culture has done for generations and it can be a money-making venture for someone who is motivated and educated to embrace that challenge and talent.

From here, the students create or find a design they draw out on graph paper.  Next is learning to string the loom appropriately and accurately. I tell the students that the hardest part is threading their needle and putting the first row of beads on their loom (which were made by our very own maintenance department elves in the workshop here on St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus).  From here, the possibilities are endless.  It is an art you love or don’t.  Many of our students love it.

Today, I am waiting for a response from Fr. Steve who is attending the Lakota Nation Invitation conference in our beautiful Paha Sapa/Black Hills.  I submitted two pieces of loom beadwork from our school and I am hoping for a ribbon to hang by their stocking upon returning from Christmas Break.

Wanikiye taampetu!=Jesus’s birthday/Christmas

LaRayne, Native American Studies Teacher 1st -8th  grades

Here's a beautiful piece from one of our students!
Here's a beautiful piece from one of our students!

‘Tis the Season

Hello again from April and the Carola Home!

It’s holiday time in the Carola Home. The boys have returned from eating turkey, dressing and other favorites with their families and now they are excitedly waiting to go home for the Christmas break. This weekend the homes are starting to decorate, putting up the trees, lights and ornaments. Although the homes have their Christmas dinner and party in January, we still discuss family traditions and holiday activities. One of our favorite things to do is look around town at the lights and decorations. Our homes tradition is to say, “Ooooh, aaaah” at the homes that are decorated.

What are some of your favorite traditions?

A picture one of my boys took.
A picture one of my boys took.

This can be a hard time of the year for our American Indian youth to be apart from their families and focus on school. Our boys are doing amazingly well. Keeping their missing assignments low and their grades up. Preparing for the end of the semester, finishing up projects and studying for final exams. It is very good to keep them busy to help the time fly by.

Winter activities help with this. A few of the boys went to the elementary Christmas concert and one of them showed his talent by taking pictures. One of our boys is a referee for the girls inter-city basketball program. Six of our boys are on the CHS basketball team and eight boys are in the St. Joseph’s high school bowling league. Also, two of our boys were chosen to go to Rapid City, South Dakota for an alumni gathering. They will be able to see friends who have graduated and be encouraged of their stories of success.

Of course, with all these activities and keeping up with their school work they have very little down time. So on the weekends when there are no scheduled events, they make the most of their free time. Watching a favorite sports game on tv, playing videos game or going to the movies at the local theatre.

It is a very exciting time of the year and there is much more to look forward to after the holidays. With our Christmas party, trip home and more.

Must be doing something right

St. Joseph's Indian School's Hogebach girls.
St. Joseph's Indian School's Hogebach girls.

Hello!  My name is Claire, and I work in both high school girls’ homes.  One question people often ask me is, “How can you do it?”  As a houseparent for 21 teenage girls, I used to ask myself that question a lot.  Literally.

My first year here my houseparent key was marked YB1, so every time I went to open the door to work, I was confronted with the question, “Why be one?”  Apparently after three and a half years, I have answered that question sufficiently well.  My key now reads YA1.  I figure if I can say, “Yay I’m one!” every day, I must be doing something right.

So how do I/we do it?  In some ways, we do what most parents do— we’re there when the kids get up in the morning and again when they go to bed at night.   We have to tell them they are beautiful enough, so please get out of the bathroom before they miss the bus.  We’re super fans, chauffeurs, cooks and coaches.  We share their prayers, troubles and triumphs.  Of course, most parents don’t have 10 teenage girls.  Then again, most parents don’t co-parent with 4-6 other people who get regularly breaks and who meet every week to talk about what we are doing and why.

The first step to houseparenting is to care.  Usually, that’s easy because we have such wonderful kids to work with.  Sometimes caring is hard—we have to care enough to let a kid be really angry in our presence, especially when it is not our fault and even when it is.  We have to care enough to swallow our pride and admit when we make mistakes.   We have to care enough to be curious when we don’t know what is going on with a kid.  We’ve have to care enough to let kids make mistakes and pay the price sometimes.

As houseparents, we have to get creative.  Whether that’s figuring out what to make for supper—knowing that this one hates onions and that one hates cheese—or finding a way to cook dinner, cheer on the basketball team, get homework done and have everyone into bed at a decent hour.  Sometimes, it’s just a matter of knowing that this kid doesn’t want hugs but will accept a mug of tea (only one sugar, thank you).

What really makes houseparenting possible is our ability to really focus on our kids.  By this I mean, we don’t have to worry about medical bills, leaky faucets or running out of groceries.  As houseparents, we are supported by thousands of donors and an incredible staff that makes sure these needs are met every day.  We are careful stewards of course, and we track our budgets to make sure we are making wise use of our resources.  OK, so when we are WAY OVER budget for allowance because our kids are getting fantastic grades, we are all secretly gleeful.  And I don’t think donors will mind one bit.

So, thank you to all the people who make it possible for me to do the job I love.

National Family Week Project

National Family Week is an annual celebration observed during the week of Thanksgiving that celebrates the family and its value to society.

These siblings made beautiful cards to take home to their family.
These siblings made beautiful cards to take home to their family.

St. Joseph’s Indian School has recognized and celebrated national family week for over a decade.  With the assistance of the Shakopee Tribe, we are able to provide $30 worth of food to each of our families.  For the convenience of our families, food cards are purchased in advance and distributed to parent/guardians as they pick their child(ren) up for Thanksgiving break.   These cards empower families to shop independently for necessary items to complete their Thanksgiving meals.  When families have higher needs or find themselves in a difficult position over the holidays, St. Joseph’s staff assesses the situation and makes recommendations for further assistance.  For example, this year one single, working mother’s financial resources were spread so thin that the return of her two children for Thanksgiving created a larger grocery bill then she could provide.  St. Joseph’s was able to provide an additional food box filled with staples such as dry cereal and canned goods.

While food cards are greatly appreciated by our families, they are only one piece of our family week celebration.  One week before the students departed for break, sibling groups were brought together for one hour to create and decorate items for their families.  Each sibling group customized a card of THANKS and a I AM THANKFUL FOR … sheet.  While parent/guardians and other family members enjoy reading these cards and treasure them, I believe that the students’ energy around this night is the highlight of the week!  Older siblings will join younger siblings in their homes, while sometimes younger siblings join older siblings in their homes.  Regardless of the combination, sibling groups are together – laughing, giving hugs and talking about things that they are thankful for.

This year a larger group gathered in the Perky Home to shared stories about each other and their family.
This year a larger group gathered in the Perky Home to shared stories about each other and their family.

This year, I was in the Perky Home where a larger group gathered to shared stories about each other and their family.  As the younger kids looked at and talked with their older brother and sisters, their admiration and excitement was obvious!  Older siblings began to delegate coloring projects and ask the younger siblings what they were thankful for, one couldn’t help but smile as the groups worked and laughed together.

This group of sisters had such a great time during National Family Week!
This group of sisters had such a great time during National Family Week!

I also joined the Stevens Home, where a group of four sisters not only worked together, but also played together.  After wrapping up their projects, they posed for pictures, allowing their personalities to shine through.  Following pictures, they joined their cousins in the TV room where they all played “Just Dance” and enjoyed each other’s company.

A reflection upon National Family Week, always helps me to remember how truly blessed we are at St. Joseph’s Indian School …

Parade of Lights

We are just returning from our Thanksgiving break here at St. Joseph’s Indian School.  I hope everyone enjoyed their break and spending the holiday with their friends and family.  Last week, here at St. Joseph’s, a few of our staff were preparing a float to enter into the Chamberlain Parade of Lights festivities.  With the theme being, “12 Days of Christmas” our float entry was the first day of Christmas.  Does anyone remember what was asked on the first day of Christmas?

“On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me…. A partridge in a pear tree.

St. Joseph's Indian School's float, "A partridge in a pear tree".
St. Joseph's Indian School's float, "A partridge in a pear tree".

There was a parade committee that gathered to put their heads together to come up with the wonderful idea for the float.  However, our facilities grounds supervisor, Foster, was what I would call the leader of the group.  Foster put in a lot of time working and building the float for the parade, along with many other facilities staff to help create his masterpiece.  The float looked wonderful all lit up, with the famous Partridge Family song “I Think I Love You” being played as they drove it down the main street of Chamberlain, South Dakota.

Some of the Native American youth here at St. Joseph’s Indian School that stayed on campus in our break home also got to help out and participate in the parade.  There were some students that got to ride on the float and some of them walked alongside and handed out dreamcatchers to all the spectators.  Can you imagine what fun it was for these children to participate in something like this?  They were able to help out and be a part of something with their “St. Joseph’s Family”.  Great fun was had by all!

‘Tis the holiday season, so we just want to wish everyone a Happy Holidays!!

– St. Joseph’s Indian School Facilities Department

Helping boys becoming men

Mike and April's philosophy, "don't give fish, but rather come along side them and teach them to fish."
Mike and April's philosophy, "don't give fish, but rather come along side them and teach them to fish."


My name is Mike. I have been a houseparent at St. Joseph’s Indian School for three and a half years. My wife April also writes on this blog. We currently work as six-day houseparents in the Carola Home with 10 high school boys, as well as our two youngest children Miranda (6th grade) and Seth (5th grade). When we first came to St. Joseph’s we worked three days in the Rooney Home with 6th-8th grade boys and then three days in the Pinger Home with 6th -8th grade girls. Needless to say, life changed drastically every three days. 🙂

Almost every time I tell someone what I do, they ask just what is a houseparent? My typical response is, it’s the greatest job in the world. Artist mold and shape clay, doctors help mend broken bones,  but we mold and shape lives, we help mend hearts and minds.  We get the privilege to watch boys become men. My philosophy as a houseparent isn’t to give fish, but rather come along side them and teach them to fish.

We began working in the Carola Home last year with 10 freshman boys. Three of the boys were with us in the Rooney Home during their 7th and 8th grade years. The others, I coached in football their 8th grade year. We ended the year with eight boys. All eight boys are back with us this year as sophomores and we have  added two freshman. One of the freshman was with us his 6th and 7th grade years in the Rooney Home. It truly is a privilege to watch as these boys work towards becoming men.

An example of our boys working to become men is the following. Our typical day starts at 6:30 am. While I’m getting breakfast ready, the boys wake up on their own, clean their rooms,  bathrooms and come downstairs by 7:00 am. While they’re eating, I check their rooms and bathrooms. Once they have eaten, they do various chores such as: cleaning the kitchen, living room, game room or sweeping the stairwells. I drive the school bus to the high school for all the homes, so I leave around 7:25 am to get the bus ready. The boys finish their chores and Ms. April checks them. They get on the bus by 7:40 and arrive at school around 8:00 am.

Last year, I went up stairs and went to each room waking each one. I discovered not everyone is a morning person like me. 🙂  I then watched as they cleaned their rooms and bathrooms. After several reminders we made it down stairs, however not everyone was on time. At the beginning of this year, I asked them  if they wanted me to wake them or use an alarm clock. They all agreed to the alarm clock. I asked if they could get their cleaning done on their own or did I need to come and watch. They all agreed they could do it on their own. They even set the consequence for anyone who wasn’t downstairs on time. To date, we have had far fewertardies and fewer reminders about their cleaning . One of my favorite posters in our home is a quote from the 1 Corithians 13:11:

When I was a child I spoke, thought and behaved like a child, but as I became a man I put away childish things.

Thank you for all your support. Please pray for us as we encourage our young men on their journey. Also, if you have a favorite quote about becoming a man we would love to hear it. We have many posters on our walls encouraging our guys to become the man their families and communities need them to be.

Until next time,


Coaching and learning from St. Joseph’s youth

Hey! Have you heard that St. Joseph’s Indian School’s sixth-grade girls are having a great basketball season?
My name is Jona. If you’ve visited St. Joseph’s Indian School and had a tour of St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus, chances are you’ve had a conversation with me!

In addition to my office duties, like providing tours for visitors, writing stories for our website and organizing special projects, I also take time each fall to coach basketball for the sixth grade girls.

My dad, Jon, is an electrician on the maintenance crew here at St. Joseph’s Indian School, and I am assistant coach to his head coach. We have a great time getting to know the Native American students a little better and, of course, I have a lot of fun spending this time with my dad!

My dad, Jon and I enjoy learning wonderful things from these young ladies every day.
My dad, Jon and I enjoy learning wonderful things from these young ladies every day.

Our team this year is a talented group, but what’s even better is the encouragement they show one another on the court and during practice. As St. Joseph’s motto says, We Serve and Teach, We Receive and Learn. I am learning wonderful things from these young ladies every day!

Preparing the Native American youth

It is remarkable to see the Lakota (Sioux) students mature and grow in their love of Jesus.
It is remarkable to see the Lakota (Sioux) students mature and grow in their love of Jesus.

We have begun the RCIC (Rite of Christian Initiation for Children) this month. This is a program to teach the youth at St. Joseph’s Indian School about becoming a Catholic and preparing them to receive the Sacraments in May. I enjoy teaching this program and seeing the children develop their faith issues and become excited about the day they are Baptized and receive their First Holy Communion. It is an extraordinary journey we take and I am so honored that I am accompany them on their exploration of their new faith. It is remarkable to work here at St. Joseph’s Indian School and not just see the students mature physically and mentally but also grow in their love of Jesus.

This year we have twenty-one students enrolled in the RCIC program; there are five second graders, six third graders, two fourth graders, four fifth graders, two sixth graders and two seventh graders. Please keep the students in your prayers as they take the first steps in their faith journey and also for me that I may have the wisdom and insight to be the best mentor for them that I can be. Next time I write, I will discuss the different themes we are touching. May I offer to each one of you a blessed and sacred Thanksgiving.

Harsh reality of Native American health

St. Joseph’s Indian School’s Personal Living Skills (PLS) class is taking it up a notch!

The class has been exploring the relationship between diet and exercise.  PLS class promotes good health, emphasizing ways to reduce sugar, salt and fat in the diet.  Our Lakota (Sioux) students learn healthy snack options and how to make healthy choices when eating out.  They also learn why fitness is important and what they can to do maintain a healthy weight in order to live a healthy and productive life.

Health Facts

Chronic diseases, such as obesity and type II diabetes persist in Native Americans at rates that are significantly higher than those in other ethnic minority populations.  A primary cause of this epidemic outbreak can be linked to the shift of tribal traditions.   With a culture that once solely survived off of the crops they harvested, Native American’s diets are now filled with processed foods high in fat and sodium with limited intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  In addition, the average physical activity level is significantly lower than the recommended amount.  The poor quality of the current diet and lifestyle of Native Americans is endangering their quality of life.

Type II diabetes is one of the most serious health problems for Native Americans in the United States.  According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Indian Health Service, Native Americans are 2.2 times more likely to have diabetes compared with non-Hispanic whites.

95% of Native Americans with diabetes are diagnosed with type II diabetes.

Just as type II diabetes can be the result of  inadequate diet and insufficient physical activity, it can also be managed and potentially cured by diet and lifestyle modifications.

Another health condition that is seriously affecting the American Indian population is obesity. Native American obesity is a major risk factor for both type II diabetes and heart disease.

On average, 30% of all Native Americans are obese.

Both males and females are consistently more overweight and obese than the total U.S. population.  The primary contributors to obesity also include poor diet and insufficient exercise.

Native Americans face a surplus of unfavorable socioeconomic factors which contribute to the rise of obesity and type II diabetes.  Among the list are economic stresses, reduced access to affordable healthful foods, opportunities for safe and varied physical activity, overexposure to targeted advertising and marketing of calorie-dense foods.  Despite these inopportune circumstances it has become critical that Native Americans make significant alterations to their current diet and lifestyles in order to protect their past, present and future legacy.

Greetings from the lab

Hello to all!  My name is Sarah and I work at St. Joseph’s Indian School as a 6th-8th grade Science teacher.  I started here at St. Joseph’s as a 4th grade teacher and spent 4 years at that level, then moved to my current position and have been in this age group for the past 6 years.  I have been at St. Joseph’s Indian School since I graduated from college.  Every year has been fun-filled and full of learning for me.

Working with 6th-8th grade students is a wonderful opportunity.  With this position, I am able to see a phenomenal amount of growth in students: academically, physically, mentally and socially.

I love that I am allowed to witness these tremendous changes.

As a Science teacher, I am given a 45 minute class period, each school day with every single 6th-8th grade student.  We cover all areas of science including: Physical Science, Life Science, Earth/Space Science and how Science impacts such areas as technology, the environment and society.

Consider yourselves to have a hand in forming the future.
Consider yourselves to have a hand in forming the future.

Being in the Science arena, also allows me to choose different methods of delivery for instruction.  In my class we cover Science objectives in a variety of ways, whether it is through lecture, laboratory activities, digital lessons or virtual labs.  The latter two listed are new to me this year as we were able to purchase a new curriculum that is available in a print workbook and also entirely online.  It has been very effective thus far with my students.  They certainly enjoy the opportunity to use the computer as a tool for learning.

I try to do lab work as much as possible as the hands-on experience is valuable for many students and also tends to be more exciting.  Our Science Department can always use donations of equipment.  They do not need to be elaborate items, only things, such as everyday household items. For instance, flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, white corn syrup, vinegar, baby oil, vegetable oil and food coloring.  These items can be used in a variety of ways to address topics such as density, chemical changes, and classifying things.

With your generous and heartfelt contributions to St. Joseph’s Indian School, I am able to give our Lakota (Sioux) youth enhanced learning opportunities.  We greatly appreciate you and you are in our prayers.  Thank you to all who donate to St. Joseph’s Indian School.  Consider yourselves to have a hand in forming the future. Pilamayathank you!