Drumbeats and Chokecherries

I hear a drumbeat in the distance, and no it’s not because I am going crazy. It’s because St. Joseph’s powwow is just around the corner! I’ve been playing Native American music in the homes and the kids have been practicing. Many of the Lakota children have received their regalia and the anticipation is building up.

We are all very excited. Check out this video if you don’t believe me. : )

Aside from preparing for the powwow, we have kept ourselves busy with plenty of activities. One of the most memorable for us was going chokecherry picking. LaRayne (our Native American Studies teacher) got in touch with a local farmer who was very generous by sharing his crop.

Chokecherry picking was traditionally a female’s responsibility in the Lakota (Sioux) culture, so we took the girls along. Jachin (my husband) was a champ and drove us there. He’s the tallest, so he picked high up in the bushes where we couldn’t reach. Sometimes he would grab branches and pull them down for the girls to pick from.

It was a very hot but beautiful Monday after school. Upon arriving, we unloaded the bus and prayed together. After we were done picking, we enjoyed a picnic dinner. The girls also had fun spraying each other with water to cool down.

Occasionally, one of the girls would run up to me – drops of sweat on the forehead, sun in the hair, a big smile and flushed cheeks – just to show me how much was in her bag. They were all so proud of the amount they were able to gather! I was proud of them too. As we picked, I couldn’t help but think of all the women who picked Chokecherries under different circumstances long before us.

Picking chokecherries took a lot of energy and some of the girls fell asleep on the ride home. When we got home, we spent time cleaning and sorting.  We felt tired but accomplished. Our fingers were lovely, purple, and wrinkly. Bedtime for the girls quickly approached, so I stayed up finishing on my own.  It was a messy and long evening. I’m not exaggerating when I say the tips of my fingers were sore for a few days!

We froze the fruit and will use it to make wojapi, jam, and juice in the winter. The girls are looking forward to it and so am I! However, Jachin is a typical guy, so he is only looking forward to the eating part. We don’t blame him. Until the time comes, he’ll just have to daydream of fluffy fry-bread dipped in wojapi.

Overall, it was a great time of fellowship. I believe it was therapeutic for some of the girls who struggle with managing their emotions. The next day, the girls drew pictures and thank you cards for LaRayne and the farmer.

Here’s a video with highlights of our day:

Stay tuned for wojapi and fry bread recipes in future blogs!

Author: St. Joseph's Indian School

At St. Joseph's Indian School, our privately-funded programs for Lakota (Sioux) children in need have evolved over 89 years of family partnership, experience and education. Because of generous friends who share tax-deductible donations, Native American youth receive a safe, stable home life; individual counseling and guidance; carefully planned curriculum based on Lakota culture and individual student needs and tools to help build confidence, boost self-esteem and improve cultural awareness. All of this helps children to live a bright, productive, possibility-filled future.

7 thoughts on “Drumbeats and Chokecherries”

  1. Wonderful, such a delight to see and hear such marvelous experiences!! The positive words from the teacher touch this mom’s soul and wish we could all be so positive, fun and loving when interacting with all children everywhere!

    1. Hi Ellen! Thanks so much for your sweet and encouraging comment. Working here with the children is one of the most challenging and most beautiful things I’ve ever done. We do have our ups and downs just like any other family. Seeing them grow (mind, body, heart and spirit) make all the effort worth it. Thank you for reading!

  2. I remember similar experiences from my childhood and they truly are extraordinarily special. And to be experienncing them under these circumstances — with peers and housemates — makes it even more special! Enjoyed this blog posting VERY much!

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