As some of you may know, this year has been proclaimed a Holy Year of Mercy by Pope Francis. Part of the celebration calls for people to visit the Cathedral and pass through the Holy Door as part of a pilgrimage. I joined parishioners from St. James Catholic Church in Chamberlain and St. Margaret Catholic Church in Kimball to visit the Cathedral of St. Joseph’s in Sioux Falls.
To meet the requirements for the plenary indulgence, the trip was geared to have the opportunity for Confession, to offer prayer for Pope Francis’ intentions and to receive the Eucharist by joining in the noon Mass. After the Mass, we were given a guided tour of the Cathedral and the renovations that were done in the past few years. The group joined together at a local Perkins for lunch before heading home. We enjoyed sharing reflections of what had impressed people the most about the experience and the tour.
Things have slowed down quite a bit on campus. The Rising Eagle Day Camp culminated and the free lunch program for the community has also came to an end to give our staff a short break before the students return to campus on August 14.
Several students are staying on campus in our Summer Break Home. They recently spent a few days in Omaha, Nebraska. I will make sure to give a report on what they saw and did in my blog next week.
The most popular activity at this year’s summer camp was a slip-n-slide ‘waterslide’! A tarp was placed on a hill with a hose at the top, allowing the kids to slip and slide all the way to the bottom of the hill! Everyone enjoyed it immensely.
About a week or so ago, the Chamberlain Cubs High School varsity basketball team sponsored a clinic to help future NBA prospects perfect their game. Several of the young men from the Break Home took advantage of the opportunity, going to the gym each morning to hone their skills. They seemed to have a lot of fun and we’ll see if the extra training bears fruit when the basketball season opens in November.
Greetings from an active St. Joseph’s Indian School!
It seems the campus has been invaded by all sorts of groups. The 8th grade graduates who are moving into the high school program are back and taking part in an orientation program to prepare them for next year. They are busy meeting their teachers at Chamberlain High, figuring the layout of the school and taking a peek into the Homes they’ll be joining this coming August when school starts up again. They’ll be on campus until June 10th.
Four of our High School Homes are open to accommodate the 36 students who are staying at St. Joseph’s for the summer. Nine of these students are signed up for Driver’s Education, which lasts for two weeks. Some students are working on campus at our Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center and as counselors for our Rising Eagle Day Camp. Others are busy tutoring students in the summer break home and helping with summer custodial work. A few are even working at local stores and car dealerships!
It’s been so nice to see many familiar faces around campus.
They’re BACK!!! The Lakota students returned to St. Joseph’s campus this past weekend. It is so good to have them back and encourage them as they jump into winter activities. Monday was a day for a teacher in-service, so those who were back early had the chance to go sledding on the snow.
We are scheduled to get some very cold and blustery weather this weekend, with temperatures just above zero and wind chills 20 to 30 degrees below zero. I want to thank those who helped provide warm clothing for our students – it is really going to be used and appreciated this weekend!
On Tuesday, we started the third quarter with a prayer service. Our theme was Mercy, tying in with the Holy Year Pope Francis is asking the Church to celebrate this year. As you can see by the logo, the Good Shepherd comes in search of us to forgive our straying and puts us on His shoulders to bring us back into relationship with God and one another.
Congrats to the students in Raphael and Dennis Homes! They did a project at Christmas, making ornaments and then selling them as a fundraiser. They sold $44.00 worth of ornaments, which they quickly donated to a nonprofit that utilized it to feed over 200 people. We are proud of them!
We recently had sign-ups for the boys’ basketball teams. The 4th, 5th and 6th grade will start on January 14, and the 7th and 8th graders will begin a week later. They are looking forward to getting underway and showing off the skills they learned in the Inter City Program they took part in before Christmas.
We are also busy organizing cheerleaders and members of the Pep Squad, a group of younger students who belt out cheers during the games! We hope the weather allows our boys to get in all their games.
The efforts of the staff at the Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center continue to be recognized. They recently were honored by the State of South Dakota for their hospitality and friendliness to visitors and guests. They also continue to get very nice reviews from those who stop in to visit the museum. If you would like to read some of them, you can go on-line and check them out at http://bit.ly/1S6d7MI.
Since it is going to be very cold here, I thought I might put in another plug for our next donor luncheon, which is coming up on the weekend of January 16-17 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Two of our high school girls will be attending along with some St. Joseph’s staff. They are excited to meet you and answer any questions you may have. If you are able to join us or would like more information, visit www.stjo.org/luncheon or call 1-800-584-9200.
I hope everyone’s 2016 is off to a flying start. May God’s blessing be with you to bring good health, much happiness and many interesting experiences during this election year.
What a week here at St. Joseph’s! You may recall we were hit with over six inches of snow a week ago Monday and now we are wondering where it all went! The snow was on the ground for several days, but when area temperatures began to rise, it melted quickly. However, do not fear… the students were able to get some sledding in, snowballs thrown and snow forts built!
To help those in Dancing Dolls and Dudes have enough time to get ready for their big recital debut on Sunday, we moved our normal Sunday morning Mass to Saturday afternoon. At the end of Mass, St. Nicholas, St. Joseph’s own President, Mike, stopped by to visit with the children and pass out goodies to those who could answer some questions he had. Everyone was excited seeing Saint Nick, knowing he’ll soon be making his rounds on Christmas Eve.
The Dancing Dolls and Dudes recital went well! The Dolls were divided by age and each group performed two or three dance numbers. The young men taking part all danced together. A few days later, at the end of the Mass on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we had our dancers stand and took a moment to congratulate them on their performance with a round of applause.
The Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center was recently honored by the South Dakota Department of Tourism with the South Dakota Great Service Star for 2015. This is an award given to tourist spots within the state that give exceptional customer service. We want to extend our congratulations to Dixie and her team at the museum for their efforts! They truly do a fantastic job.
Some of our sixth, seventh and eighth grade boys participate in the local Explorers group with young men their age from the local public school. Every year, the young men ‘take to the town’ and perform odd jobs as a way to raise funds for a worthy cause. This year, they began their quest to raise money to assist in purchasing an automated external defibrillator (AED) for the Chamberlain Middle School. After they began saving their money, they became aware of someone many of the boys knew who had just been diagnosed with cancer and decided to make that person the main focus of their money raising efforts! They will still be making a donation for the AED, but the boys are all excited to give back to someone who means a lot to them!
With Christmas getting closer, various decorations are going up around campus. The nativity scene was put up where the tipi stands just outside the Akta Lakota Museum. Several of the Homes have also gotten into the holiday spirit and the rest will get busy this weekend so they’ll all have everything in place by the time Christmas break arrives.
I hope your time of preparation for Christmas is moving along smoothly. While it is nice to get all the externals—baking, cards, gifts and decorations—going, may we take a moment to get ourselves ready so there will be room in our hearts when the Prince of Peace comes. Have a great week.
This past Sunday, we held a Lakota Mass on St. Joseph’s campus to celebrate the arrival of our high school students, who started classes with Chamberlain High School on August 26.
We currently have 50 students in the high school program; our enrollment campus-wide is 213 students.
The local public school staff and teachers visited our Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center ahead of the start of their school year. The tour gave the teachers and staff an idea of what to expect when they interact with Native American students living in Chamberlain or coming in from the reservation. The experience also helped the staff to have a better understanding of our high school students’ backgrounds.
A welcome back picnic for our staff and students was held at American Creek park along the Missouri River. There was laughter, kayaking, games, swimming, food and fun galore! Once the sun went down, the good times continued to roll with a bonfire and s’mores.
You may recall I mentioned that our religious community, the Priests of the Sacred Heart from Hales Corners, WI , held an election for a new Provincial and Council due to the election of our previous Provincial (and former Director of St. Joseph’s), Fr. Steve Huffstetter, SCJ, to the General Council in Rome. Our acting Provincial, Fr. Ed Kilianski, SCJ, was elected to take on the leadership role. He will be supported by Frs. Quang Nguyen, SCJ; Duy Nguyen, SCJ; Christianus Hendrik, SCJ; Jack Kurps, SCJ; and Br. Frank Presto, SCJ. We ask that you keep them in prayer that the Holy Spirit will guide and strengthen them as they lead the Province into the future.
Now that we have rolled into September, we can officially say that our annual Powwow is close! Our students are practicing twice a week and our drum group, the Chalk Hills Singers, is also preparing for the event. The Chalk Hills Singers played at Mass on Sunday and 24 dancers took part in the entrance rite.
Our 39th Annual Powwow festivities begin on Thursday, September 17 with guest registration, a reservation bus tour (pre-registration required), the powwow royalty crowning ceremony and a meet and greet with St. Joseph’s alumni.
On Friday, guest registration will continue along with a complimentary breakfast, cultural activities, a tour of the school, cultural performances and our evening Tiyospaye Banquet (pre-registration required).
Prior to the powwow on Saturday, there will be tours of students’ campus homes and an open house at Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel. Following the powwow, we will host Mass and provide a complimentary meal before prizes are awarded.
If you would like additional information about our powwow or more information on planning your visit, please call 1-800-584-9200 or visit www.stjo.org/powwow. We would love to have you join us!
May God continue to bless and reward you for your continued support and generosity to the Lakota (Sioux) children.
We heard today from a woman who came across St. Joseph’s Christmas cards in an unusual way. Her friends get together regularly to play cards – a women’s poker night. They don’t gamble for money, but this month everyone brought extra Christmas cards to share. She had a hot hand and her winnings included several Christmas cards from St. Joseph’s. She liked them so much that called in to find out more about our school, and decided to become a donor.
Any unique stories about how you came in contact with St. Joseph’s Indian School?
Today we held our staff open house at Akta Lakota Museum. We had discounts up to 40% to encourage staff to do some Christmas shopping on campus. They are proud when they wear St. Joseph’s Indian School shirts. Folks also appreciate the intricate and traditional hand crafted items, or enjoy picking up the latest books on Plains Indian Culture.
Our Tokéya uŋkí nájiŋpi Historical Center is making great strides this week. Workers are installing the displays and hanging artifacts on the walls. Every day I make it a point to visit to see the latest progress. One of the rooms shows the transition from dormitory life, when we had 70 children sleeping in one big room, to our Family Living Units, with 10-12 children in a home setting.
Sandi, who has taught at St. Joseph’s for 35 years walked through the open house with Matt, one of our new teachers. When she saw the pictures and artifacts, it brought back so many memories, and she told Matt about some of the history and changes she’s seen. One of my hopes is that the displays tell a story, evoke memories and help us pass traditions on to future generations. We also know the history of Indian Boarding Schools has a negative side, and we hope for alumni whose experience of school include painful memories, this can be a place of healing.
This morning after mass I saw a group of people wandering around Wisdom Circle looking lost. A group of education students from Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell started two days of observation in our classrooms. I escorted them to the principal’s office, and answered a few questions about our Native American students and programs along the way.
Later, when I checked how they were doing, they were impressed by what they saw in the classrooms. It helps to see the theory you’ve been learning about in college put into practice in a real and practical way.
The Honor Roll and Perfect Attendance awards for the first quarter were announced at the end of the school day. Students sat on the floor of the school gym and those so honored proudly came forward as their name was called to receive a certificate. They also got to choose from some attractive Native American-themed notebooks and bookmarks.
We try not to be guilty of grade inflation, but did have FIVE students who earned all A’s! Those who continue with good grades, and those who can bring up their semester grades to all B’s and A’s will get to attend a fun and special banquet in January. Even without special rewards, our teachers are encouraging each student to work hard at achieving their potential.
Last night I stopped by Pinger Home (6th– 8th grade girls) for a visit and stayed for supper. The home won a Monopoly game from the Halloween decorating contest and Calista asked if anyone wanted to play. I’m a capitalist baron from way back, and soon was collecting big money from my railroads. There were lots of rules that students didn’t understand, especially having to do with mortgaging property or the 10% tax on the space just past GO, so we turned it into a fun math lesson. The game ended in a four-way tie as we ran out of time and the girls had to go to their Wednesday night enrichment class. Ironically, the theme the 6th-8th grade community is covering this month is money management!!!
Winter months make for a quieter season in our Akta Lakota Museum, so we chose this time to start the demolition of the old bathrooms and about a third of the display space to make room for some new presentations. After checking out the work, I stopped to see how our receptionist was doing in her new space. She was on the phone with a donor so I decided to check out how the new archive and collection storage facility looked now that we’ve moved everything into that area.
As soon as I opened the door the alarms went off with a loud siren! It took Vicki and I a while to figure out how to disarm the system and, by then, we’d attracted plenty of attention. At least we know the security system works!
About two weeks ago we sent out our Christmas appeal, which is the biggest mailing of the year. People have begun generously responding and we had many trays of mail arrive at the post office today. Our departments take turns helping sort mail when we’re busy, and it was Tipi Press staff’s day to sort. When I saw the email appeal for help sorting, I left my desk and joined them.
I enjoyed the chance to chat and catch up with what everyone is doing. While such a job can tedious, when many people pitch in it goes quickly. And I never complain about lots of mail, but give thanks that people care and want to help us make a difference!
Fourth and fifth grade students from Crow Creek grade school, our neighbors to the north, came to our gym for girls’ basketball games. The referees give players that age lots of leeway as they try to learn the basics of the game. They usually let double dribbles slide until it obviously becomes triple dribble. Our St. Joseph’s fourth graders played with enthusiasm, but could only get a couple of balls to drop through the hoop and were never in contention. Our fifth graders were more competitive and led the whole game until the fourth quarter, when the Chieftans rallied to win by 4.
While much of the country celebrated Columbus Day yesterday, South Dakota celebrated Native American Day. We had a full school day, but all the classrooms had special lessons to help our Native American students develop a greater sense of pride in their heritage and culture. As students walked into the building they were smudged with the smoke from sage. They then participated in a Four Directions prayer service in the school gym to begin the day with a good spiritual grounding.
Our students took part in Lakota hand games, drumming and singing while their opponents tried to win wooden counting sticks while guessing which hand held the winning wooden dowel. In the old days, bones were used in this game. As our Lakota students learn the rules and strategies better, they can participate in contests against other schools.
We have an Artist in Residence working with our kids this week. His expertise is in brass instruments and the kids were thrilled and awed when he brought out a tuba and let a few of them try. They were blown away (figuratively)!
Four students and one teacher from our sister school in Handrup Germany arrived today. They will spend the next two weeks with us in a cultural exchange. The German students are the ones who hosted our students in their homes last summer, and I saw hugs and handshakes and joyful reunions all around. They will get to experience what it is like to live in St. Joseph’s homes and travel around the state to learn some history and culture of the Lakota people.
My day was enriched by two visits from donors passing through on their way to the Black Hills for vacation. One couple was from Virgina Beach, and I had time to take them into the school and let them see some of our young scholars in action. The second couple came from Youngstown, Ohio, and I met them in the chapel on my way to community prayer. We talked about the symbolism of the artwork in Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel.
I met the crew moving all our artwork into the newly completed storage facility at our Akta Lakota Museum. The curator from one of the state museums said we have a wonderful facility that will preserve our arts and artifacts well. The large back room is starting to come to life as more paintings, sculptures, arrowheads, beaded medallions and countless other treasures add color and texture to the shelving and storage areas.
Our students responded well to our first fire drill of the fall, even when the fire crew blocked three of the regular exits and they had to scramble to figure out an alternative. That’s so necessary if there is a real fire. Dave Z., our new Cultural Associate, uses a wheel chair and had to get creative when his regular ground floor exit was closed. This just reinforced the emphasis we’ve put on making all the older buildings on campus more handicap accessible over the past few years.
Our safety and security committee meets once a month to review drills and other issues. Living in a very rural area, wild animals become an issue, and lately we’ve had too many critters on campus. The deer that graze on our grass, and the wild turkeys that waddle around add charm to the campus. But we’ve also had lots of skunk encounters. Besides the smell, rabies is a concern. One of the sheriff’s deputies is also a trapper, and he’s helping us out. This week we removed five skunks, a possum and three cats. A farm family readily accepted the cats to help control their own little critter population.
Our 36th annual powwow is in the books! I’m weary, but it’s the good kind of tired from a wonderful day.
As visitors streamed onto campus, they boarded our mini buses and were shuttled around campus for morning tours of Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel and four of the residential homes where the boys and girls live on St. Joseph’s campus. Houseparents prepared snacks for our guests, and students volunteered to give tours of the homes. The most enthusiastic were the 1st – 3rd grade girls of Afra Home, who at times led people by the hand, tugging them along to see the playroom or laundry and tell them about all they’ve already learned from life in the Home.
Our students were polite, respectful, excited and touched people’s hearts. Our ever-present blue-shirted St. Joseph’s staff members drew countless praise as they made folks feel welcome, answered questions and made sure people had directions to the places they needed to go next.
Dave, our powwow arena director, kept things moving along and made sure people were in the right place and time for ceremonies and competitions. Virgil, our PA announcer entertained with humorous banter, encouraged dancers and educated visitors with his explanations of what they were seeing on the powwow grounds.
Besides our own St. Joseph students, many young people came from surrounding areas. When 150 dancers processed in during the Grand Entry, the colorful spectacle was a beauty to behold. We had ten drum groups rotating the songs, including our St. Joseph’s student group – “the Chalk Hills Singers”
The last couple of years, weather for the powwow has been on the cool side. Today, the sun was out much of the day and temperatures climbed into the high 80’s. The energetic dancers certainly worked up a good sweat! Spectators coveted the shady spots and more than a few took a mid-day break in our air-conditioned Akta Lakota Museum.
At supper we served stew and fixings at the picnic pavilion, feeding over 900 guests, students and family members. After the judges’ points were totaled, we announced the award winning dancers and passed out prizes. As the sun set over the majestic Missouri River and people headed home with pictures and memories, our facilities crew was already tearing down and putting the football field back to it’s normal configuration. Next year’s powwow will be the weekend of September 21, so make your plans now to join us!