Easter Egg Hunt at St. Joseph’s Indian School

Native American students getting lined up for an Easter Egg Hunt.
All of the kids at St. Joseph's Indian School had a great time at the Easter Egg Hunt.

The homes reopened at noon, and our Native American students started arriving back on campus to finish up our last quarter. April and May seem to fly by so fast, filled with all the end of  year activities.

Our Easter Egg Hunt at 4:00 p.m. encouraged the students to get back before supper so they can have time to settle into their homes and be ready for school on Tuesday. A few students made it back just in the nick of time and  rushed to the field where the eggs were hidden even before stopping at their home to unpack. There’s been a lot of odd news stories about egg hunts gone awry because they are too competitive. We try to keep it orderly and still let the kids have some fun. Our staff hid enough colorful plastic eggs for each child to find a dozen. Once a student collected theirs, they could help classmates fill their baskets. Once everyone had their eggs, they returned to the Rec Center to open them. All the eggs contained small prizes or candy, and a few had slips of paper that allowed them to choose a larger prize, like a stuffed bunny or a game. As the kids get older, they aren’t quite as enthusiastic about the eggs as the younger students, but all seemed to have a good time.

I saw a few students, especially the younger ones, fighting back tears when their parents or grandparents drove away. Even when students know this is the best place for them to be, those transitions away from family are inevitably hard.

On the road again

We met with the architect and contractors on the Akta Lakota Museum project today. They were planning to start pouring floors, but we got a heavy thunderstorm and the area is a muddy mess so they decided to wait for a drier day. They’re perhaps even a little ahead of schedule anyway, due to an unusually warm and dry spell since mid February. The rain was actually very appreciated, as area farmers and ranchers have worried about the low water table, and have been praying for moisture. Next week, crews plan to start the outside brick and masonry work, after which the project will really start coming to life.

In a short while, four staff and two students will start our journey for a donor appreciation luncheon to Miami, Florida to meet with and thank our donors in that part of the country. You’ll get a few guest blogs until I get back, and I’m sure I’ll have a story or two to tell of the adventure.

For those of you who support St. Joseph Indian School from a distance, I hope we are able to one day meet at a luncheon or one of our powwows.

We really appreciate your help and dedication.

Responsibilities and opportunities

Four of our Carola Home boys and two boys from the Sheehy Home played for the very successful  JV Chamberlain basketball team this year (their ending record was 14-1). Our guys have truly enjoyed earning their success through hard work and practice. They have learned valuable skills not only on the court but also off. They have discovered the importance of teamwork, dedication, time management and keeping up with their class work. The coaches have a strict policy of school work before playing time in the games. For most, it only took one game of sitting on the bench and not getting to play before they realized the importance of keeping their assignments caught up. They have learned how to manage practices, games, school work, friends, home life, as well as, finding time to rest. With the basketball season nearing an end, our boys are already looking forward to track and baseball.

This year we have three boys who have earned their driving privileges. This is a new thing for our home. They boys have taken drivers education, drove, with very nervous houseparents:), passed their driving test at the local DMV and then passed the “dreaded” driving test and safety speech from our safety and security man Mr. Clark.  The boys were given a 1993 Ford Taurus wagon to drive and take care of. It has been around the block more than once, but our guys drive it with a smile on their face.  I smile as I watch them drive away remembering my first car and how I still remember the color and smell. They know that if they take care of it they will be able to drive a nicer car next year.  The boys are allowed a set number of miles each week. This will get them to and from school and to and from practices. They can pay for additional miles if they work. This past Sunday I couldn’t help but laugh when one of the boys asked me to drive him to the store because he was tired of driving. I would like thank all of our donors who make these experiences possible through their generous support. Each new privilege brings new responsibilities and opportunities to teach life lessons.

Pray for us as we continue to encourage our American Indian students to become the men God wants them to be.


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.

Making these kids feel special

The Fisher Home after opening their presents … notice the smiles.
The Fisher Home after opening their presents … notice the smiles.

Christmas time is always a blast if you are a houseparent at St. Joseph’s Indian School. You get to be there as the students open their presents and see the joy on their faces.  While some students don’t get exactly what they want, most get what they want and more.

These boys are the current eighth grade boys in the Fisher Home. They got basketballs which was a big hit because each one of these boys is convinced they are the next, Lebron James … which in relation to my basketball skills, they might be!

The day in the Fisher Home started off with church, which was hard for the students to sit through. The fact that they were opening presents immediately following church did not escape their minds.

After the boys opened their presents they played bingo which was a big hit for the young gentlemen. They had a chance to win hacky-sacks, quarters, soda and basketball cards. For the evening activity, the boys went swimming and got to have various treats the houseparents brought from their own homes.

The day was an awesome opportunity for me to remember why Christmas is special. It was a chance for us to show the important people in our life feel special.

Thanks to all the donors who helped us make these kids feel special.

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!

The words of Jesus came alive

Chamberlain High School put on the musical “Godspell”.
Chamberlain High School put on the musical “Godspell”.

Chamberlain High School put on the musical “Godspell” in the local community center. I’ve seen the production three times in the past, and it made the words of Jesus come alive for me in a unique way each time. I’ve also seen that student crews who worked on it came away with a deeper sense of faith. During the preparation, I overheard our students commenting at mass when a gospel passage connected with what they were rehearsing.  What was different about this production, was the presence of the entire 7th and 8th grade Chamberlain choir, and many high school students as a chorus that ringed the stage and made the background vocals stand out loud. There are lots of laughs, but many poignant moments.

We had several students involved. Chris, a junior, had a solo and was prominent in many of the skits. Trinity and Michelle did all the makeup. Jatonne played guitar as part of the musical support. The entire lighting crew of four was staffed by our St. Joseph’s Indian School youth, and others helped build the stage. Lots of staff kids’ had lead roles, and it seemed like half the town crowded in to participate. At the end we opened our programs to find the music and lyrics to Handel’s Hallelujah chorus. As the audience sang along, it sure lifted everyone’s spirits.

To make opening night even more festive, on campus the date happened to coincide with a feast that Tia, one of our high school houseparents puts on. She is from Louisiana, and her hometown has a “coming home” festival at this time. She made two kinds of gumbo, jambalaya and dirty rice. Those who dipped their ladle into the gumbo pot and pulled up a hardboiled egg also won an envelope with prize money. It was also Mark’s (the other houseparent’s) birthday, so he had some of his favorite songs on the boom box and a huge cake with one candle for each one of his years of life.

After supper, I sat and talked with three of our four seniors about graduation. This crew has been at St. Joseph’s Indian School for a lot of combined years. Erin arrived in 5th grade, Danisha in 3rd, Nick in 2nd and D’Kera in first (a lifer!) They’ve seen and experienced so much in their years at St. Joseph’s. And since the kids live here, you really do see them grow up.

So many memories

We have so many memories of them growing up over the years.
We have so many memories of them growing up over the years.

Though 8th grade graduation is still a half a year away, we gathered the 25 students who will walk up the aisle in May and took our formal, graduation picture clad in blue and gold robes. This will be a special group for me because I began working at St. Joseph’s when these students were first graders, and have so many memories of them growing up over the years. They hadn’t given to much thought to graduation, but were very excited thinking that it time will pass quickly approaching that celebration.

During supper at the Hogebach Home (high school girls), a couple of the young women shared about their after school jobs. Latoya just began work at the Nursing Home as a dietary aid. She serves meals to the elderly and enjoys the chance to visit and interact with the elders. And she is getting some good training along the way, in case she does decide to go into a health care profession.

Erika is helping in the development office. She phones donors to thank them for special donations, or sometimes makes calls just to wish them a Happy Birthday. Her supervisor says she is doing a great job, and people are particularly pleased to hear from and talk to one of our students here at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

Get your Christmas cards from St. Joseph’s Indian School today

On my way to the office to work on the weekend homily, I spied the Fisher Home (6th-8thgrade) boys hiking towards the Chalk Hills, and I decided to tag along. Their houseparent Nate, decided to take advantage of a gorgeous fall day, 57 degrees and sunny, for some outdoor activity. Their game was called “camouflage” a variation of hide and seek. While Nate turned his back, the students hid themselves in gullies, behind trees and in draws, then tried to work their way back to base. If he could see them, they were out of the game until the next round. While he spotted, I was given the job of “finder.” I couldn’t say anything to Nate about those I saw, but had to walk in the area he directed me to go to. I got my exercise hopping over fallen trees and climbing over hill and dale, but all in good fun. We don’t know when the cold wintry weather will begin, so homes take advantage of these days when we are gifted with them.

Get your Christmas cards from St. Joseph's Indian School today!
Get your Christmas cards from St. Joseph's Indian School today!


Speaking of winter, in the evening our local hospital held their annual fundraiser. Their Christmas extravaganza featured Christmas gift packages and beautifully decorated trees and other items for people to bid on for the holidays. A pianist played lovely Christmas music while we ate. It really won’t be that long before Christmas is here, and we are making our lists and preparing for the holy season ourselves. Christmas cards are available through our website, and we have started a list of needed gift items as well.

Please pass the “Farmer John” cheese

Each year, there are always a few staff who have babies, and this afternoon Chris, our Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator brought her newborn son, Mavrick to the office for everyone to ooh and aah over. His dad Jason is an avid hunter and he was wrapped in a camouflage colored afghan. We teased Chris about being out during one her normally busiest times, Red Ribbon week. But we know how important that initial bonding time between mother and child is. We look forward to her return in a couple of months.

We had a phone conference with Split Rock Studios who is helping us develop the historical portion of the alumni center and tell the history of St. Joseph Indian School. We’ve been setting money aside for the project for the past couple of years. A few of their ideas would have taken us over budget, and since we’re very conscious of that, we talked about alternatives that would get us back on track.

At the end of the school day, we held our Honors Assembly. Our principal, Kathleen, announced the students who had perfect attendance or were on the A and B honor roll. Fr. Anthony and I helped with the distribution of certificates and congratulations for a job well done. We pass out some small tokens or prizes. I think it’s the recognition that our students appreciate most, and always hope it helps more students to believe in themselves and work for excellence in the classroom.

For supper at the Cyr home (4th-5th grade boys), Odis made his homemade pizza.

The parmesan cheese was next to me, and one of the students asked me to, “Please pass the Farmer John cheese.”

I got a chuckle out of that, and enjoyed the lively conversation. For enrichment class, right before the students watched a Veggie Tales cartoon about the Golden Rule, they saw the wisdom about treating others they way they would like to be treated, but it’s not always easy to live up to that.