Visitors and day camp: June begins at St. Joseph’s Indian School

Dear Friends of St. Joseph’s,

Twenty-three big RV Campers pulled into St. Joseph’s campus on Friday. The visitors stopped to tour the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center.  They were part of an

Water safety is one of the many activities for Lakota children at day camp.
Everyone had fun learning about water safety.

Adventure Caravan group coming from places in Texas to California.  All together, 55 guests enjoyed a guided tour of the museum and viewed a film on the American Indians from the Great Plains.  They also visited our Alumni & Historical center, Tokéya uŋkí nájiŋpi (We Stood Here in the Beginning) that details the history of St. Joseph’s Indian School.

The school year has ended, but I would like to share with you the winners of the Fr. Leo John Dehon Award.  Fr. Dehon founded the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart (SCJs). The award is given to the student who exemplifies generosity, compassion, initiative and mastery of skill in dealing with their fellow students.

Staff members can nominate a student each quarter.  The student who receives the most nominations over the course of the year is declared the overall winner.  This year there was a tie between Shawnna, Alyssa and Mariah!

Their prize was to have lunch with our school principal at a local restaurant and then have the opportunity to shadow at a local business next school year.  Alyssa has won previously and shadowed at the veterinary clinic, which is what Shawnna and Mariah have chosen for next year. Alyssa is thinking of spending her time at the police station.

The Lakota children learned to make birdfeeders with pinecones and peanut butter.
Day campers made birdfeeders with pinecones and peanut butter.

Our summer program, Rising Eagle Day Camp, is up and running.  The first two weeks, we serve Native American children from the Crow Creek Indian Reservation, north of Chamberlain on the east side of the Missouri River.  The first day saw the excited youngsters ready to come down for activities, swimming and nutritious meals. The following two weeks will see children coming from the Lower Brule Indian Reservation on the west side of the river. We can accommodate 60 participants each day – our bus is often full to capacity!

As we see so much activity going on at St. Joseph’s, it reminds us we do could not help in so many ways without your generosity.  Pilamayathank you – for your care and concern, which enable us to offer something positive to so many local children.

The Lakota children have breakfast, lunch and a snack every day before St. Joseph’s bus takes them back home.
We have breakfast, lunch and a yummy snack every day!


Have a great week!

Fr. Anthony Kluckman, SCJ


Cultural Trip Day 5

I had never been to Wind Cave before and appreciated making the connection with the place that figures so prominently in the Lakota (Sioux) peoples’ origins stories. The natural entrance is just a small hole in the ground, about as big as a basketball… but over 400 miles of cave lies just below.

St. Joseph’s students visited Custer State Park during their cultural trip.
The Lakota boys saw buffalo at a safe distance in Custer State Park.

The air in the cave is like the earth breathing as winds rush in or out to equalize the barometric pressure. The winds can reach up to 70 mph, and make a whistling sound. This is thought to be the place the earth breathes. As the story goes, the buffalo nation gave birth to the Lakota Oyate in this place.

Our students can be a bit shy, so early on I encouraged them to think of a question or two they would like to ask when we toured a site. I appreciated how they were growing more and more comfortable opening up, and I learned a lot from questions I never would have thought to ask.

On our way to the next campsite we drove through Custer State Park, and encountered several buffalo. At one point, we had to stop the bus as a half dozen crossed the road. One was a little too interested in our bus. Nate said he’d have a hard time explaining that damage to LeRoy in St. Joseph’s Maintenance Shop if the magnificent animal had gotten feisty.

At our campsite, the boys enjoyed skipping rocks in the gurgling stream, balancing on a fallen tree that served as a bridge to cross and scaling the hills and dreaming of adventure.

We visited the Crazy Horse memorial. Over 60 years in the making, the mountain will be twice the height of the Statue of Liberty when it’s finished. The four faces of Mount Rushmore could fit in the horse’s head. The site also includes a museum of the American Indian, which is a treasure.

One of my favorite activities at Crazy Horse is visiting the workshop where Native American artists work at their craft – a showcase of numerous tribes from South Dakota and beyond. There are plenty of beautiful pieces for sale, but you can also just observe and appreciate their craftsmanship. They are also good about answering questions. A highlight for Craig was running into his grandfather who frequently paints there.

The Crazy Horse Monument, still in progress, was another important stop on the trip.
Caden and Trenton enjoyed the Crazy Horse Monument on a cool day.

While we were in the neighborhood we also took in Mount Rushmore. While it’s a very different kind of cultural experience, we didn’t want to miss it. Fr. Jose is visiting us from Portugal, and it was high on his list. I was surprised that half of our students had never been there either.

We returned to camp and roasted hot dogs and hamburgers over an open fire. One highlight of my time on this trip is the talking circle where each student shared observations and what they learned from the day.

Leading up to Easter at St. Joseph’s

Greetings to you all as we enter into Holy Week leading up to the joy, beauty and majesty of Easter!

Fr. Steve is away attending some meetings in Chicago and giving a retreat to our retired priests and Brothers in Pinellas Park, Florida.  That’s what he said anyway, but I think there might be an effort to get in a spring training baseball game or two as well!  As he will not be back until after Easter, he asked me to pass along what’s been happening here at St. Joseph’s over this past weekend.

The Lakota children saw two science-related presentations before spring break.
The Lakota children took in the Star Lab Thursday before spring break.

The students and staff are on Spring/Easter break at the moment.  They’ll return on Easter Monday.  Our high school students are on a different schedule (since they attend Chamberlain High School) so they are still in session.  Don’t feel sorry for them though – it seems like they are off for something or other every week! They’ll have Good Friday through Easter Monday off.

Just before the students left, we were able to host two special programs that shared insight into the scientific realm as the Lakota Star Lab came on Thursday and on Friday, we learned about tornadoes.

The Star Lab was an effort to get our students looking to and dreaming about the stars and the heavens.  The Weather Enrichment Program dealt with storm chasers.  There was an initial presentation of the impact tornadoes have and how they are formed.  Then a 20-minute 3-D film called Tornado Alley showed how the storms are chased and studied.

That was followed by a Q & A session and then a tour of the Doppler on Wheels vehicle used in the pursuit of the storms.  It weighs 26,000 pounds, stands 14 feet high, 8.5 feet wide and 27 feet long and is able to obtain speeds around 80 miles per hour.  I asked where they did most of their chasing and they stated Kansas and Oklahoma because they are so flat.

It is good they shared info on tornadoes since South Dakota does get some during the summer months. We have had one or two storm chasers in the area around St. Joseph’s over the years.

The break also gave three of our Lakota students the chance to take part in a trip to Washington, DC to visit our nation’s capital and see the sights.  They flew on Saturday and will visit various museums such as the Holocaust Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian. They will have a tour of the capital building on Monday before heading back on Tuesday.  This has been a wonderful opportunity for our Native American students to explore our seat of national government and get to know the places they hear about on the evening news!

The week ahead should be quiet and peaceful here on campus aside from the squawking of all the Canadian geese that are in the area.  It is amazing how many did not go south for the winter but found the Chamberlain area a nice place to stop and visit.

Hope you all have a rewarding and grace-filled Holy Week and a beautiful Easter!

The Lakota children got to see portable weather stations used to measure conditions during tornadoes.
Friday, after the Tornado Alley movie, St. Joseph’s students headed outside to take a look at portable weather stations and the Doppler on Wheels.

Guest Blogger: Julie

Christ Tunpi – Merry Christmas!
Christ Tunpi – Merry Christmas!
Greetings friends!!

My name is Julie and I am a Family Service Counselor here at St. Joseph’s Indian School. I hope this wonderful time of year finds you all doing well! Things here at St. Joseph’s Indian School have been very busy over the last few days! The students are getting ready to head home for Christmas break. The weather looks good for their travel, which is truly a blessing.

This past weekend was the annual “Christmas Store.” This is a time when students can pick out gifts for their family members. The items available for gifts come from your generous donations; the students really enjoy being able to pick out gifts for their families! The students also get a chance to see Santa Clause and have their gifts wrapped. It is a fun-filled day that both students and staff enjoy!

Other things that have been happening at St. Joseph’s Indian School include the conclusion of the girls’ basketball season, the students’ Christmas program and a new ceremony called the “Tears Ceremony.” The Tears Ceremony is held at St. Joseph’s when a student loses a loved one. This is a time for the students to remember their loved one and be supported by friends and staff.

Our first Tears Ceremony was held this week and was a beautiful tribute to the students’ loved one. Still in its beginning stages, the Tears Ceremony gives the students one more way to remember and grieve the loved one they have lost. The student who has lost the loved one is an integral part of the planning process for the ceremony. We hope that the Tears Ceremony will assist the students with the grief process and let them know they are supported and cared for while they traverse the grief process.

Houseparents help students choose gifts for their families.
Houseparents help students choose gifts for their families.

At this time of year, I always think of the generosity of our benefactors. St. Joseph’s Indian School offers so many great things to our students… but without your kindness and generosity, we would be unable to do the great things we do. So at this time I say Thank You for all you do for St. Joseph’s Indian School. May you have a wonderful and blessed Christmas and New Year!


Guest Blogger: Joe

Last week in Religion class, the third graders watched a five minute video titled “A great day.” They are a great group of kids because they always come in with smiles on their faces and ready to learn.  At this age, the Lakota boys and girls are full of many questions which can be a good thing and sometimes very challenging.

On this particular day, I told the class that we were going to watch the video two times. The first time we would watch it straight through and see what stuck in their minds.  After this, we planned to watch the video again but we would stop it a couple of times to discuss what was happening.

I pushed play and the students’ eyes stared at the screen. I looked around and could see the wheels turning in their heads. These students were getting something out of this simple five minute video.  Once the video concluded, I asked the students what they thought was going on in the film.  One young boy raised his hand and simply said,

“Today is a gift!”

In my mind, this was the best answer that you could expect from watching the video.

As we watched the video a second time, I paused at the beginning to talk about “the gift.” (If you are not familiar with the video, the gift is that you get to live another day.) I told the students that God has a plan for us. God knows what we did five minutes ago and God knows what we are going to do five minutes from now.

“So God knows that I am going to pick my nose in a few minutes?” one boy asked.

After controlling my laughter I told him simply “yes.”

As the video went on, I paused it again to talk about things that the students could do to help make a difference in their lives and the lives of others. Things like using their eyes, their smile, a touch or their presence can be very powerful. I told the students that these four things, under their control, can change another person’s day.

After finishing the video, I asked the students what they thought of the video after watching it for the second time. A young girl then said,

“We are blessed!”

I asked her what that meant and she went on to tell the class that we are blessed to receive another day of life. I added that each student was blessed to have many things and that we should always be grateful.

In the last fifteen minutes of class I asked the students to write down what they are thankful for.  They were asked to write down as many blessing as they could.  As soon as I handed out the paper there wasn’t a single noise in the classroom. By the end of the class every student had filled out at least the whole front side of a piece of paper.

When the class period ended, I sat and thought about how everyone at St. Joseph’s is blessed and thankful for everything that happens here on campus.

So, I ask you to join us. Take out a page of paper and write down what you are thankful for.  Remember to write down as many things as you can think of.  Whenever you are having a bad day, look back at what you wrote down.  Then you can be as thankful as our third graders here at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Guest Blogger: Vickie

My name is Vickie and I am the gift shop supervisor for the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center.

I have worked for St. Joseph’s Indian School since 1997. My responsibilities include purchasing items for the gift shop, managing the summer staff and giving guided tours of the museum. I have learned much more about the Lakota (Sioux) culture while working here and it is very interesting work. Plus I am able to share the knowledge with our visitors.

We have a beautiful museum with outstanding displays of Native American art and artifacts, so it is always enjoyable to work in the museum.

We have remodeling going on in the museum at this time. When it is finished, our museum will be an even better presentation of the Lakota culture.

I have been working on getting some new items for our online shopping site. Several items we carry are one-of-a-kind, so the selection is constantly changing.

We have some very nice items that would make great Christmas gifts. I invite you to browse our online shopping site. You can place your order online or call us toll-free at 1-800-798-3452; we are available Monday – Friday to answer your questions or take your order over the phone.



Guest Blogger: Mike P.

Week 3: 3,077 laps

Greetings everyone from Mike and the William Home (4th and 5th  grade girls)!

This is my tenth year working in the William Home and it is hard to believe that we are finishing up the first quarter of school this week.  As always, St. Joseph’s Indian School’s powwow was very enjoyable and our Lakota kids love showing off their homes, campus and dancing.

The girls are now getting excited for the start of basketball season. We signed up October 18 and our first game is November 5!

If you have followed the William Home activities from last year, you may recall that we set a goal to walk 500 miles (10,00 laps in the gym) as a group.  Well, this year the girls have a new plan. We have worked to find the mileage to all the girls’ hometowns and have set up a map to track our walking.  Our tour is set to take us 760 miles or 15,200 laps around the gym. So far, we have made it to Fort Thompson and Lower Brule and are headed to Winner, South Dakota next.

Thank you for all you do to help the children of St. Joseph’s, and we will keep you updated on where the William Home is on our walk!

Guest Blogger: Lori

Greetings to everyone from St. Joseph’s Indian School! The technology department has a very busy schedule during the summer months.   Many hours are spent setting up and installing new computers, rebuilding older computers and making sure everything will work when the students and staff return for the new school year.

The ever-changing world of technology can be very exciting but it can also be very frustrating.  There is always new software that needs to be learned and integrated into our network.  Working through “kinks,” “bugs,” and the like can take many complex hours of intricate design and development.   It’s very important to us that everything works well once it gets to our end users (students and staff), and we work diligently to make sure this happens.

Along with computer changes, there are many software changes that need to be made over the summer.  We write a lot of our own computer programs here at St. Joseph’s Indian School.  The programs range from keeping information on each student to tracking their educational progress.  Creating our own computer programs enables us to tweak the program to our exact needs.  The summer is the time to make these changes.  The list seems to grow each year with minor changes to some programs, adding a few reports to other programs or creating a whole new application for staff to use in the fall.

Don’t forget the training on these new programs – we’ll be preparing for that as well!

We have been putting off moving to Windows 7 but now seems to be the time.  Windows XP has been a great operating system for us and we stuck with it a long time.  We are just starting to rotate out XP and move in Windows 7.  With this change will also come additional support.   We provide technical support for the entire campus, which means days filled with nothing else.

This can make our days very interesting and also very satisfying – we enjoy it very much!  We strive to be a very user-friendly technology department.

Talking through joys and stresses

We’re continuing to meet with different departments to discuss the new Strategic Plan. While the first couple of groups were large, 20 – 30 people, today’s meeting with the Rec Center staff meant that three of us were listening to the ideas and feedback of a group of four. I quite preferred that because we had some interesting ideas and back and forth dialogue and the staff came away with a much better understanding of the difference they can make in the plan, and some opportunities the plan can open up for them. We have lots of good ideas for wellness and new activities for staff and Native American students alike. Like life in general, we’ll have to choose a few and let some go. There’s neither time nor staff nor facilities to do everything we’d like.

Shelly, who is a relatively new staff member, appreciated being asked her opinion. “You really want to know what we employees think!” she remarked to me. We sure do. It’s from our staff that we get most of our best ideas.

I ate supper with the Sheehy Home (boys high school). Half the guys were still at basketball practice when I arrived, and the other half were playing NBA basketball video games. I wonder what the favorite spot around here is?!  After supper the high school students who are applying for our June exchange program with our sister school in Handrup Germany gathered. One of the duties of those chosen will to give a series of presentations to the classrooms overseas. Maija, who trains houseparents, gave the American Indian students some pointers on how to prepare. In a couple of weeks, their power point presentations of “Life at St. Joseph’s” will be used to help select which students will represent our school.

The high schoolers ended the evening with their Sons and Daughters of Tradition session, which included a talking circle to help process joys and stresses that occurred in their lives over the holidays.


A good lesson for our youth

Today we arrived home after a few days in Pittsburgh for donor appreciation luncheons. We met kind and wonderful people who are part of our St. Joseph’s tiyospayeextended family. I lived in the Pittsburgh area for about a year when I was four, and visited friends there several times during my growing up years, but had never been to the city as an adult. We enjoyed walking around and exploring what the city had to offer. We walked through the campus of Duquesne University, and saw what classrooms and dorms look like at a University.  It’s never too early to try to get our Native American youth thinking about college.  As we walked through the cultural and entertainment district, I realized that I have never seen so much black and gold as the community really takes pride in their Pittsburgh Steelers, especially on a home football weekend.

We all had a great time in Pittsburgh!
We all had a great time in Pittsburgh!

Through the generosity of the Steelers and the Rooney family, our students got to go to the football game against the Cincinnati Bengals. It was my first NFL game as well, and for December, we were blessed with mild temperatures and a beautiful day for a game. We sat mid way up in the end zone, and all five of the Steelers’ touchdowns happened in our end of the field.

What I will remember even more than the game, was our visit to the practice facility. I’m fascinated by what goes on behind the scenes in most any business or organization. What impressed our students the most was the room home to the six Super Bowl trophies. What impressed me more, was all the “classrooms” in the facility. To succeed at such a high level takes not only conditioning and physical skill, but being able to learn and out think your opponent. It was a good lesson for our students, who both like sports, but also realize how important using their brain is.

At Friday’s luncheon, I reconnected with Joe, who was in the seminary with me during our high school years. He lives in the area and was a wonderful host as he took us up the cable car of the Duquesne Incline for a marvelous view of the city. A tour guide there took great pride in pointing out the history and achievements of the area, and we learned more about the French and Indian wars and General George Washington’s place in history.

On Saturday, we had another special guest. St. Pat used to be our principal and later oversaw Pastoral Care at St. Joseph’s Indian School. She is now back in her hometown of Pittsburgh was able to grace us with her company. Saturday night, 8th grader Merrill got a visit from his aunt, who drove five hours from her home base in New Jersey just to spend a few hours with him.