A new ‘season’ has begun…

Fr. Anthony, St. Joseph's Chaplain
Fr. Anthony, St. Joseph’s Chaplain

Greetings from St. Joseph’s Indian School.

As I was driving home from the Chamberlain High School football game last Friday, I noticed several of the local motels had ‘no vacancy’ signs lit. I couldn’t figure out why so many people were in town …and then it hit me—pheasants.

The South Dakota pheasant season opened Saturday at noon and the color of the day is now blaze orange. This is a very big source of income for the State of South Dakota and local guides.  We offered a prayer at Sunday Mass asking the Great Spirit to keep all hunters safe.

Saturday evening, St. Joseph’s sponsored a concert by Mr. Shane Heilman of The Psalms Project at the Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel on St. Joseph’s campus. The Psalms Project is a group of forty musicians who are working to put all 150 Psalms to music with artistic excellence, Scriptural integrity, and cultural relevance—a marriage of King David’s vision with modern music.

Thus far, they have recorded the first 20 Psalms and are preparing to release their third album with Psalms 21-30. During the concert, Mr. Heilman talked about the project and explained the meaning of the Psalms he performed. Mr. Heilman also helped out with the music at our Sunday liturgy.  To find out more about the project, you can visit their website, thepsalmsprojectband.com.

Last week saw the end of the football and volleyball seasons here on campus. There is no downtime, however, for the Lakota students at St. Joseph’s! Our girls and boys began basketball, martial arts, gymnastics and archery practices this week.

Lakota (Sioux) students with German students
Our Lakota (Sioux) students enjoyed learning from our visitors through the German Exchange program.

Our four German exchange students and their chaperone finished their visit to St. Joseph’s Indian School last week after attending a few days of school at Chamberlain High and then touring the Black Hills, the Badlands, Wall Drug and Mount Rushmore. They were also able to take part in a powwow in Rapid City on Native American Day (observed as Columbus Day elsewhere).

They ended their stay with a presentation to our high school students about their hometowns, their families, their hobbies, what sports they like and their favorite foods. Our students hosted a farewell party at the end of the presentation complete with a cake shaped like a piece of luggage.  Our guests stopped in Chicago for a few days to visit the SCJ’s college program for our seminarians before heading home.  The visit was enjoyed by all.

May each of you have a wonderful week as we see the beauty of nature continue to unfold with the changing of the leaves. May we be grateful for the beauty and continue to do our part in protecting Mother Earth.  May God’s blessings be with you now and always.

Fr. Anthony Kluckman, SCJ


Guest Bloggers: Patrick & Anita

Saturday morning we headed west, stopping at the Vore Buffalo Jump near the state line and then into Wyoming. Of course, we had to stop and take pictures and walk across the border so that everyone now can say they “walked from South Dakota to Wyoming!”

It’s a scenic drive to Devil’s Tower National Monument.  Before starting our hikes we enjoyed the introduction to the area from the ranger.  The group divided and had a choice of either a 1 ½ or a 3 ½ mile hike around the base of the Tower.  The hikes and the views were both invigorating.  Besides the prairie dog towns, the other wildlife we saw was a rattlesnake!  Even though it was a baby one – and we viewed it from a distance – it added excitement to the day.

We attended mass that evening at St. Joseph’s in Spearfish, South Dakota. The group was given a warm welcome during announcements, and we were surprised to discover that the priest there is an uncle to one of our staff members.  Then it was all-you-can-eat at the Pizza Ranch, a stop at the local mall, and enjoying the hotel pool before bedtime.

We began our Sunday with a visit to the impressive Crazy Horse Memorial, hearing the story of its origination, touring the museum, and gawking at the massiveness of the memorial. Afterwards we traveled back into the town of Custer for a brunch that included plate-sized pancakes!  However, one of the German exchange students inadvertently ordered from the kiddy menu – the biggest member of our group had the smallest meal, which made for some good laughs!

After filling our stomachs we were ready to head back into Custer State Park to begin our wildlife quest.  We had driven several miles on the Wildlife Loop and had only seen one pronghorn.  The leaders were beginning to get worried that all the animals were in hiding, but then we came around a curve to be greeted by a herd of approximately 250 head of buffalo spread out across the hills!  Some were even close to the road which made for some great photos.  Before leaving the park we saw several groups of pronghorn antelope and two deer!  It was a great way to wrap our visit to the Black Hills. 

Of course, no visit to western South Dakota would be complete without a stop at Wall Drug!  We had a chance to shop for souvenirs, have dinner and buy some of their famous homemade donuts before heading back to Chamberlain.  We had an incredible 770 mile adventure—one that made great memories for each of the students.

Delightful days of Mission Awareness

We finished several delightful days of a Mission Awareness exchange with our SCJ sister schools and programs located in Mississippi. Twelve adults and eight students from the South spent time touring and learning about South Dakota and sharing part of their culture and heritage with our students and staff. The group began their tour in the Black Hills and Rapid City, and made the pilgrimages to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse on Saturday. Driving here on Sunday they came via Wall Drug and the Badlands. More than anything else, the group was tickled by seeing prairie dogs scampering around the Badlands.

Monday and Tuesday the Mississippi youngsters rotated around our classrooms to present information about their part of the country. One group presented on famous Mississippians, like Brett Favre and Oprah Winfrey. One section was on entrepreneurs, like the founder of FedEx, Fred Smith. In the 2nd grade classroom Kathryn remarked,

“Entrepreneurs is a big word for second graders. Those are people who have a great idea, and make it into something important. Can you think of any entrepreneurs?”

While most were puzzled, one student’s hand shot right up. “God” he wisely said.

A second group put together a musical presentation that taught our Native American students about Blues and Gospel music. One of their eighth grade students sang beautifully for us. Our students made percussion instruments out of corn, rice and beans and shook them in time with the beat. One group showed our students about the agricultural products the Mississippi River Delta is famous for, and yet another introduced our students to famous people involved in the Civil Rights movement.

We split our staff into two groups, so that each morning half of them could attend presentations about the pastoral ministry, educational programs, housing efforts and social services that go on in their part of the country. I saw many of our staff nodding heads and agreeing that working in economically disadvantaged areas, many of the issues are the same. Our staff was impressed and appreciative of their efforts, and we got many compliments about what we are trying to accomplish here in South Dakota.

Both days our guests prepared regional foods for our students and staff to feast on at lunch time. Yesterday’s menu included turkey with cornbread dressing, yams and turnip greens. Today we had pulled pork BBQ. Our kids love it all, except maybe the greens, but a certain yuck factor at anything new, especially in the line of vegetables, is typical of school aged children.

Monday afternoon the group toured the nearby Lower Brule and Crow Creek Indian Reservations. The trip included stops at a reconstructed Earth Lodge, typical of a Mandan village, St. Mary’s Church in Lower Brule, and a guided tour of the Sundance grounds. This afternoon our students had a chance to host and present. Our drum group played traditional songs, and our third graders were dance ambassadors. They demonstrated different powwow dance styles and  got all the guests on their feet to try hoop dancing.

Our archery students demonstrated the skills they’ve learned. Irene impressed us all by showing that she could hit the center of the target even while shooting lying on her back. (the next Katniss Everdeen?!) Our visitors were tickled to be asked to try their hand, and Rob, one of theeighth grade visitors, even got a bullseye! Our students sat with the guests and taught them how to make dreamcatchers. The end of the school day brought time to tour the homes and Akta Lakota Museum. We shared a meal of Buffalo Burgers, and parted with many joyfully shared memories.

A weekend outdoors

St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus had all kinds of different activities going on. As I looked out my office window I saw our archers moving their targets from inside the gym to outdoors on the football field, where they could see how they fared with longer distances and wind. The t-ball field was active with a game, and the swings of the playground were arching high. The Explorers groups had a charity car wash to raise funds for a trip to Minnesota to see a Twins baseball game.

With just three weeks left of the high school year, a fair number of our older students attended Saturday school to catch up on missing assignments and make up work.

A few of the homes were away on their annual Home Trip. Two groups were in Rapid City touring the Black Hills. The Fisher Home (6th – 8th grade boys) spent the weekend only a half mile away, at American Creek Campground but enjoyed sleeping in tents, fishing and exploring the great outdoors.

The Sheehy Home (high school boys) celebrated Earth Day. They left campus with empty garbage bags, and scoured town until they returned with full ones.

Mid-afternoon, the high school homes gathered for a picnic. The day was sunny, but our prairie winds were fierce, sometimes gusting up to 45 miles per hour. The grills were moved inside the garage, and the meal was a tasty success. But neither potato chips nor paper plates lasted long on the picnic table before they were airborne. The basketball court was busy, but the players had to rely on layups rather than any finesse distance shots. I threw some horseshoes with a few of the guys and I think the wind even affected the flying metal shoes. I know it almost blew me over a couple of times!

78 years young today

The kids playing outside in the winter snow.
The kids at St. Joseph's Indian School love to play in the snow.

We got an icy drizzle on St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus today that turned the sidewalks into skating rinks for a while. Staff and students alike had to be very careful. We got word that the Carola Home (high school boys) took their annual skiing trip to the Black Hills yesterday. There were a couple harsh wipe outs, it’s a good thing our boys are tough. After mass the younger students on campus flocked to our hills by the football field, which give a fun ride, but nothing compared to the slopes in the beautiful Black Hills.

Fr. Bernie turned 78 years young today, so we took him out to dinner for his birthday. With the roads still worrisome (and maybe with some folks staying home for football playoffs) the normally hopping Al’s Oasis, which can seat hundreds, had just eleven patrons dining when we arrived. D’Kera, one of our high school students was waitressing, and had only two tables in the two hours she had been on duty. Having safely arrived, we sat down to a nice feast and good conversation to celebrate the many years of faithful service Fr. Bernie has given.

South Dakota attractions

Yesterday my family was off to Mitchell, South Dakota to see the World’s Only Corn Palace, a site visitors of our area often stop to visit. I spent a day in the office, with no excitement and lots of paperwork, but such is the life of an administrator.

Today we traveled West to see two of South Dakota’s most memorable sights, the Badlands and Mount Rushmore. Parts of the Badlands look like sand castles built by giants. Abundant moisture has made the fields and mesa tops a brilliant green, further highlighting the layered earth tone colors of the exposed soil. We stopped at many of the scenic pull offs to explore the unique landscape.

At the end of the scenic Badlands Loop is Wall Drug. After seeing literally hundreds of signs along the way, my niece had to experience it for herself. We quenched our thirst with the free ice water and took home the free (one per family) bumper sticker to further spread the word. John climbed up on the same giant jackalope statue he rode on as a kid 34 years ago when we visited as a family, and I sent the picture on to the rest of my brothers and sisters.

I’ve been to Mount Rushmore many times. It’s a joy to be with someone experiencing it for the first time. When I visit National Parks, I’m always impressed by the knowledge of the Rangers. On the tour we took, besides learning a lot about the four presidents, there was a good overview of Lakota (Sioux) culture and the land disputes over the Black Hills that are still unresolved.