Staying busy and having fun at St. Joseph’s Indian School!

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

Good day from St. Joseph’s Indian School.

The weather has been great recently. The temperature has been moving up, but blowing winds have also added a touch of coolness.  St. Joseph’s students are appreciative of the nice weather—it gives them a chance to get outside and participate in fun activities.

The Rec Center staff has been hard at work scheduling and organizing different programs for the students to get involved in.

There are softball games for fourth and fifth graders in the afternoon and games for the 6th, 7th and 8th graders in the early evening. It sure is a fun experience being able to play under the lights!  The younger Homes also have T-ball right after school lets out for the day.

Youth football is active two days a week, which enables our students to interact with youngsters from the Chamberlain area.

Recently there was also a gymnastics camp held at Chamberlain High School that gave our young ladies the chance to work with the gymnastics team and coaches that came in second in the Class “A” State competition this year. Continue reading “Staying busy and having fun at St. Joseph’s Indian School!”

St. Joseph’s Participates in Lakota Language Challenges!

LaRayne is St. Joseph's Native American Studies teacher.Hello! My name is LaRayne. I teach Native American Studies alongside my co-teacher, Allen.

I want to take a minute to tell you all about our recent language challenges!

We had two Lakota/Dakota language challenges during the month of February. They were both fun, rewarding and confidence-building for all the students involved.

We had rendezvous challenges with the reservation school that borders our community, Crow Creek Elementary. We traveled there once, and they visited us once. Teachers from each school worked together to prepare the students in specific areas of food, family, days of the week, seasons, numbers, colors, school terms, animals and stages of life.

Each school came up with two questions from each category and the students went to work studying.

Lakota Language Challenge.jpgBoth challenge meetings came down to the wire, and we had to use a tie-breaker question at the end to decide the winner. It was a split on wins. We won at home, and they also won on their own turf!

Continue reading “St. Joseph’s Participates in Lakota Language Challenges!”

Greetings from Chamberlain, South Dakota!

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

Good day from St. Joseph’s Indian School!

It’s another lovely day in the neighborhood… although the evil word SNOW has been mentioned on the weather reports! We have yet to see any and are thankful for mild fall weather.

Since the Lakota (Sioux) youth have begun second quarter, we recently held an awards ceremony for quarter one.  The rewards for A and B honor rolls and perfect attendance are a certificate and a WalMart gift card.  If a student is on the honor roll with perfect attendance next quarter, the award may increase in value!  We also have a contest between age groups to see which class can achieve the highest GPA (Grade Point Average).  The one with the highest average gets a pizza party and hangs the award plaque in their classroom.

Lakota (Sioux) students with their teacher.
Ron’s 5th grade class won the award for the highest cumulative GPA for Quarter One!

We honored all veterans and those actively serving our country during Sunday Mass at Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel. THANK YOU just isn’t enough for their sacrifices.

Last Saturday, the Chamberlain Science Club hosted the 1st Annual Hot Chocolate 5K Walk/Run, and it began here on St. Joseph’s campus.  It was a way to celebrate Native American Month and learn about the importance of exercise all year long.  Sanford Hospital set up an informational booth and there were baked goodies and warm drinks for all those taking part.

Students are in the process of learning to sing two Christmas carols in the Lakota language — Silent Night and Hark the Herald Angels Sing.  Aside from what they are learning in class, singing songs is a nice way to keep developing the Lakota language skills of our students.

This week, St. Joseph’s is honored to welcome Mr. Lawrence Diggs, our current Artist in Residence. He is helping our students express themselves through poetry!

St. Joseph’s was honored to have one of our Native American Studies teachers, Allen, give a presentation on historical trauma in American Indian History to a college class at Dakota Wesleyan University.  He shared how early boarding schools tried to negate Native American culture and heritage and ‘mold’ them into the white culture by cutting their hair and not letting them speak their native languages.  He also spoke about high rates of unemployment, suicide and sexual assaults currently present on the reservations.

Tree in Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel
St. Joseph’s Indian School’s Tree of Remembrance

He also shared positive notes about how the reservations are working hard to combat suicides and offer resources to those who are struggling.  Change will not happen overnight, but he is happy that steps are being taken to get things headed in the right direction and he is proud to be part of that process. Read more in the article that appeared in the Mitchell Daily Republic!

We hope you have a wonderful week.  Say pilamayathank you – to a veteran and let them know you are grateful for their service to our country.

Fr. Anthony Kluckman, SCJ


PS:  The picture shows our tree of remembrance in Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel with the names of our Beloved Dead whom we are keeping in prayer this month.

Guest Blogger: LaRayne

We have been waiting to allow our Native American students to take part in what used to be a very common, easily created ceremony.  With a burn ban in effect since the summer here in South Dakota, and without a staff person to be able to pour water for the sacred ceremony, Inipi – the Lakota rite of purification – was a rare occurrence at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

We now have a Cultural Specialist on staff to help our students, families and staff learn more about the culture of our Oceti Sakowin people.

Dave came to us in September. In the classroom, he has taught us to play the old hand games and has also worked with the boys and girls on the drum. He shares as much as he can to help staff learn too.

In addition to spending time in classrooms, Dave pours water for the Inipi ceremony. He was able to do this for our older boys (sixth grade through high school) just days after the burn ban was lifted.  It is a ceremony of prayer.  All areas of living beings are a part:  rocks, people, four legged and winged.  It is a gateway to learning more language and culture for our students.

We will take Dave’s expertise to the Lakota Nation Invitational in the hand games competition on December 21.  A group of students who have grasped the hand game songs and way of playing will travel to Rapid City, South Dakota for the day and then off for a long Christmas break.  We’ll let you know how they fair at the games!

October 8 is Native American Day

At St. Joseph’s, teachers work to incorporate Lakota (Sioux) culture into their lesson plans for the day. Outside of St. Joseph’s Indian School,the state of South Dakota has put out standards for cultural teaching.

  • In Sandi’s math class, students wrote and solved number sentences using the Lakota language instead of digits.
  • In Steve’s fourth grade class, students read “A Little Boy and Girl in the Clouds” and “Star Boy” by Paul Goble.
  • Fifth grade students learned about Winter Counts and constructed their own.
  • Sarah’s eighth-grade students read The Lakota Way: Stories & Lessons for Living by Joseph Marshall III.
  • In computer class, Gina worked with students to find a map of South Dakota reservations and discuss where each reservation is and which ones they are from.
  • Using Sherman Alexie’s essay, “The Joys of Reading and Writing, Superman and Me,” students in Craig’s class worked on identifying important values, philosophy, and beliefs in writing by Native Americans.
  • In Linea’s reading class, students listened to The Eagle – empathizing Compasion (wah-un-shee-lah-pee) – to care to sympathize and The Story of No Moccasins – empathizing Humility (un-shee-ee-cee-hay-pee) – to be humble, modest, unpretentious.
  • Third grade students watched a Native American storyteller share the story of why rabbit is the way he is.  After sharing and discussing the story, students made an animal poster labeling each part along with the Lakota word.
  • First grade students read “The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush” by Tomie dePaola.  The students created a Native American boy or girl and placed shapes in a pattern on the chest to represent the traditional beadwork and patterns on the leather.

A daily routine with our high school girls

At some point during break, I found myself sitting on my couch thinking,

“It’s quiet around here. [Eyes shift about suspiciously].  Too quiet. [Pause.]  What are the kids up to?”

I’ve come to appreciate the rhythms of the daily routines with the kids, so although I enjoy my time off, I still look forward to starting up again after break.  It feels good to be back in the happy chaos of the high school homes as we all get settled back in.

We had so much fun singing, baking and laughing!
We had so much fun singing, baking and laughing!

We left off last year baking cookies and making ornaments with girls from the younger homes.  This involved Christmas carols, flour and frosting on the floor, and twiddly bits of glitter and goo gobs in the rug.  These are hallmarks of a really good day: singing and a medium-sized mess.

This was a departure from our usual after school routine, which is a jumble of snacks, charges, appointments and updates on the new topics at Chamberlain High School.

“I got all my assignments in!”  (Yeah! Good job!)

“What’s for dinner?  Can I go to McDonald’s?” (Chili, and no you may not.)

“Can I go to Central [Receiving]?  I need some black pants for work!”  (Yes, and sign yourself out.)

“I need to go to early school tomorrow to do my speech.” (Please e-mail Miles for a ride at 7:30.)

“I need $2 for class dues and 3 dozen cupcakes for tomorrow.”  (What  huh?)

All of this is accompanied by the pop/hip hop soundtrack of someone’s laptop playing full blast and the constant clicking of cell phone keys texting.

Morning routines are not quite so lively. They are more like a cheesy suspense novel. Everything starts off predictably slow, with sleepy-eyed prayers and bits of toast.  Then comes the rising action—the clock is ticking and our heroine is in a race against time to complete her mission before the bus arrives.  Will she get her charge done?  Will that bathroom sink pass inspection or will she have to go for a do-over?  The bus is out front with the lights flashing, as we bite our nails (and tongues, because nagging is just NOT going to save the day).  Will she find that Math book?   WILL HER HAIR LOOK OK??  Tune in and find out.

Singing and a medium sized mess!
Singing and a medium sized mess!

The best part of the day is still the short window of time between curfew and bedtime. Theoretically, we are winding down for the day.  We’ll have snacks and Sleepy Tea.  Prayers are one part of the day when we can usually have all the girls together for a few quiet cell-phone free minutes.  The girls usually have friends and family members that they want to pray for.  Sometimes they pray for better grades or snow days.  We have lists of intentions from benefactors that get added in as well.  It may sound a bit corny, but I really enjoy prayer time.  It’s a privilege to be able to talk about spirituality openly with the kids, and it makes for a positive end to our day.  Well, sort of.   Once bedtime actually arrives, we are back into chaos with everyone remembering “one last thing” that has to be done right now.  The next five minutes will be like herding frogs.

I find myself smiling when I remember these things.  I can’t wait to get caught up on all the news with the girls.  Best of all, today is present-wrapping day for the high school program.  This involves Christmas carols, pizza, tons of wrapping paper and tape. In other words: singing and a medium size mess.  We’re off to a great start!

Until next time,


Good food and good company

Activities continued at the Lakota Nation Invitational Tournament (LNI) in Rapid City, South Dakota. After the Knowledge Bowl concluded, our Lakota (Sioux) students took individual tests in their strongest school subjects. They competed against other gifted and talented Native American youth from across the state of South Dakota, but mostly, I emphasized, they were competing against themselves, as they try to grow in knowledge. Not winning, not being the best or brightest can be a powerful incentive to study harder and learn more.

True wisdom begins when we know what we don’t know.

Our high school team will stay on another day, but I had to get back to Chamberlain for our end-of-the-year staff Christmas party. On the first part of the drive, I turned the radio on to hear how some of the basketball games were going and head a ballgame broadcast entirely  in Lakota! That’s a creative way to spark interest and keep the Lakota language alive. It wasn’t too long before the reception faded, I turned off the radio, and appreciated the silence on the three-hour drive home. With little traffic, traveling in South Dakota can be very meditative and a good time for taking stock of blessings, and things I need to work on.

Jodee won the shiniest sweater! She looked great!
Jodee won the shiniest sweater! She looked great!

Many of our staff, including the maintenance crew and the development office people who are still answering all the mail and donor requests work year round. Our teachers and most houseparents are on a school schedule and will have the next two weeks off. Tonight was a night to relax and celebrate the successful completion of the first semester.

The planning committee threw in a new wrinkle this year and awarded prizes for the best Christmas sweaters – shiniest, most beautiful and most creative. We had some characters with lights and bulbs and tinsel which let to lots of laughter. Good food and good company. Thanks to all who worked so hard to make the evening a fun success!

Generosity – Wacantognaka

This weekend is our Rite of Acceptance for the 20 students who are part of our RCIC (Rite of Christian Initiation of Children) program. One of the gestures is a seven fold blessing of the different senses – eyes, ears, lips, shoulders, heart, hands and feet. During practice, I asked the students what they thought each of those gestures meant.

I asked, “Why would we ever bless someone’s feet?”

One girl chimed in, “So we can walk toward Jesus.”

A second added, “And run away from evil!”

We definitely have a couple of good young theologians that I am constantly learning from.

The William Home (4th – 5th grade girls) has a tradition of a Christmas open house every December. Mike always makes his meatballs, and Jessica her peanut butter and chocolate Buckeyes. The rest of the menu is up to the talents of the girls in the home, and they came up with tasty finger foods and baked goods. From the moment you walk in the door, they offer to take you coat, get you some punch or hot apple cider and show lots of hospitality. I enjoyed looking over the photo album they’ve put together of their activities for the year up to this point. As I looked back on some older photo albums from the home, I got a real sense of the passage of time. After seven years here, the girls who were 5th graders when I first arrived, have now graduated and gone off to college.

Our student leadership committee did a great job hosting their food/clothing drive!
Our student leadership committee did a great job hosting their food/clothing drive!

Our student leadership committee held a food and clothing drive these past few weeks, mindful of families in town and on the Indian reservations that really need that kind of help right now. Generosity is one of those cardinal virtues we try to instill in all our students.

Personal renditions

December 6 is the Feast of St. Nicholas. When Fr. Guy came to the chapel for morning prayer, he brought us little red stockings filled with a few holiday treats. St. Nicholas is a nice reminder of being generous to others, and doing so in a fun and festive way. The St. Nicholas story I remember from childhood, was how he secretly put gold coins on a man’s doorstep so his three daughters, who couldn’t afford the dowry, could get married.

When I stopped by the Native American Studies Class, the Lakota (Sioux) youth were drawing their tribal flags. There are nine Sioux tribes in the state of South Dakota and this particular class had students from Rosebud, Cheyenne River, Crow Creek and Lower Brule Sioux tribes. I learned something about the symbolism and colors in each flag as the students meticulously worked on their personal renditions.

Mary Jane, our Alumni Director , was getting a care package ready to send out to Lolita, an alumni in the Navy stationed in Japan. I was glad to drop off a letter of encouragement and wish her well.

The Braves had a great basketball season!
The Braves had a great basketball season!

Some of our students have emotional struggles that may lead to acting out in self harmful ways. I stopped by one of the counselor’s offices and saw a student just back from a week long in patient treatment placement. Lots of times, I see our students coping so well, but I’m reminded that at times we have to go the extra mile to meet their needs. They did well with the program and are glad to be back on St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus again.

Our 5th grade girls basketball team was back in action for their last home game of the year. After Christmas break, it will be the boys turn to play other schools and our girls will shift to the inter-city league, which is more like intramurals. Their weeks of practice paid of nicely and they played well as a team to hold on for a four point victory. After the game, the kids and coaches enjoyed a pizza party in the game room to celebrate the end of their season.

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.