Visit us for a tour!

The Medicine Wheel Garden will offer a quiet place for reflection and respite on St. Joseph’s campus.
The addition to the building is finished, but some displays are still under construction in the new Tokéya uŋkí nájiŋpi (We stood here in the beginning) Historical/Alumni Center.

I’m Charleen, the Historical Center Coordinator; I joined the team in October 2012.  I have worked at the museum as a seasonal part-time employee the past three summers.  I have always had a love of history and I am honored to be the Coordinator for the Historical Center. My responsibilities include greeting visitors to St. Joseph’s and giving guided campus tours. I am looking forward to helping our visitors learn more about the history of St. Joseph’s Indian School and the great Lakota (Sioux) Culture.

Construction of the Tokéya uŋkí nájiŋpi (We stood here in the beginning) Historical/Alumni Center is still in progress. However, the Historical Center is now open to visitors and some of the displays have been completed. The displays are amazing and a visit is highly recommended. The Medicine Wheel Garden will be completed this spring. Native plants and landscaping will complete the project, once the chill of winter has gone.

The Medicine Wheel Garden will offer a quiet place for reflection and respite on St. Joseph’s campus.
The Medicine Wheel Garden will be complete this spring.

Currently, guided campus tours are available at 10:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. Tours can be scheduled at a different time if this does not fit your schedule. Transportation can be arranged for any tour.

  • All tours begin at the Akta Lakota Museum.
  • Summer schedule: May 1- October 31, daily tours will be at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Monday – Saturday.

In addition, visitors can enjoy a self-guided tour with additional options available at the Historical Center.

  • A cd to put in your car player
  • An mp3 player for a walking tour.

All options are free of charge.

To schedule a tour please call me at 800-798-3452 or email me at

Guest Blogger: Peggy

Hello everyone, my name is Peggy, St. Joseph’s Indian School’s 4th grade teacher!

Second quarter is well underway!  Thanksgiving Break is now beginning and it won’t be long until we are into the Christmas season.  Maybe it is all the good weather, but the year has really seemed to fly!

hoop-dancing-SJISI have included pictures of our Native American students at St. Joseph’s Indian School’s powwow.  That was held in September, but it is a time always on their minds.  They enjoy knowing about and participating in events related to the Lakota (Sioux) culture.  On Native American Day, we did many activities to promote the culture.  In my class, we listened to storytellers on YouTube.

In Science, we have Lakota words that go with the unit we are studying.  It’s always nice to tie the two things together.  It’s fun when students come in using the Lakota words.  One time we were studying frogs, and the students came running in saying they had found a gnaska’ on the playground!

In they came with a dead frog in a sandwich bag …  I tried to display it, but the smell was too much! I was thrilled that they had used the Lakota word instead of the English word.  Right now we are studying weather.  In South Dakota, Thanksgiving brings us osni’  cold!

SJIS-powwowToday before the students left, we celebrated a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.  We read the story, watched the video and then students were brought into a room that was set up like the actual dinner.  We had pretzels, popcorn, toast and jelly beans!  Some of the students quoted the story asking,

“What blockhead made this?”

It was a good laugh!  It was nice to see the students sitting around, relaxing and visiting with each other.

Academics continue.  We are well into multiplication.  For some it is an easy transition from addition, but for others there is a real struggle.  We continue to work and find ways for all students to feel success.  In science, we are working on weather and soon will study the planets.  Reading continues to work with fluency and comprehension.

I hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving and are anticipating celebrating Christ’s birth in the season ahead!

4th Grade Teacher

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.



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.

Friday’s powwow festivities

Friday before powwow, 330 donors took part in the school and cultural activities we offered throughout the day, and attended our banquet that evening. I shook lots of hands and got plenty of hugs as I answered as many questions as I could about St. Joseph’s Indian School and our programs. There are familiar faces that come back for powwow year after year, and I smiled as I recognized them coming through the museum doors. At the banquet I asked for a show of hands who was on their first actual visit to the school, and approximately 80% of the people were first timers. What I heard over and over again, in many different ways, was,

“I had no idea you have so much going on here. I was blown away by the comprehensive nature of your programs and facilities, and how well your school is run.”

While I always appreciate the affirmation, as people look over our programs, they also pass on new ideas that may contribute to ongoing improvement.

Lakota child teaches how to make dreamcatcher.
Liz teaches a friend of St. Joseph’s how to make a dreamcatcher.

Morning held cultural workshops. One favorite is having students teach people to make their own dreamcatcher. We also had presentations on traditional Lakota foods, children’s games, culture and stories. Folks could attend one or several of the workshops, and still have time to browse in the museum. Our students led small groups on tours of the school in the afternoon. They are excited to have visitors, and proud to “show and tell” what goes on in the school. At 3:00, everyone gathered in the Rec Center for the announcement of our 2012 Powwow Royalty. These students will serve as ambassadors and represent St. Joseph’s at different events throughout the year. A group called “Sons of Eagle Horse” then gave a presentation on traditional dance, and included flute songs and hand drumming. They offered our students encouragement about the strength they can draw from Lakota traditions. Lots of the kids joined the circle when it came time for the round dance. Many of the places we do business with make a donation so we can host a nice sit down meal for all our visitors. The crowd was huge, lively and fun. “Lakota George” set a relaxing tone with background flute music One new wrinkle we added this year was to have noted artist and St. Joseph’s alumnus Del Iron Cloud paint a watercolor during the meal. Folks could watch his skill up close, and ask questions about his art. At the end of the night, he auctioned it off and the proceeds went to help with our latest round of home remodeling.

St. Joseph's Indian School alumni painting at their banquet.
Del Iron Cloud painting at St. Joseph’s Indian School’s banquet.

Our fourth graders demonstrated hoop dancing on stage, and showed lots of enthusiasm and athleticism. Then they led the group in a Round Dance, and more than half of the crowd got out of their seats and moved to the beat of the drum. I announced the ten star quilt raffle winners that were drawn earlier in the day. Those went to folks across the country. But we saved one and drew a door prize, and Robert from Nebraska was honored to have such a beautiful symbol of the Lakota (Sioux) culture wrapped around his shoulders to take home with him.

5th graders learn about their own Native American culture

Ironically, the 5th graders are assigned a unit about People of the Plains as a part of their curriculum.  This always leaves me scratching my head because my class, Native American Studies, is pretty much all about the People of the Plains.  From the time the kids begin in first grade and go on up to eighth grade, they will have learned many concepts about our beautiful Lakota (Sioux) culture.

Native American children learning about their culture.
The kids were so interested in their Lakota (Sioux) culture.

To begin, I asked the students to make a KWL chart.  This is a chart that lists what you know (K), what you want to know (W) and lastly, what you learned (L).  Thanks to this process, I was able to tailor the lessons so I didn’t teach something they already knew about. I was able to directly show and discuss actual artifacts from our classroom and the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center on campus.

Some questions they had were about tools, weapons, clothes, food, games, tasks, horses, dogs, child rearing, medicine men, moons and medicines.  We learned from the internet, class discussions and by viewing and touching many items at the museum.  Visiting the museum was their favorite activity.  They touched bones that were used for painting, cutting, sewing, scraping and working.  They also learned how paint was made, how items were decorated with porcupine quills, eagle feathers and buffalo parts that were used for practical uses. For example, the buffalo bladder was used as a water carrier, the skin became blankets and the tail was used as a fly swatter.

After the unit was finished, I reflected on how I am really thankful to have this unit.  It gives the kids a chance to ask questions about what they want to know and it gives me an opportunity to teach and talk about some different, awesome avenues of our Lakota culture.

Students demonstrating our core values

Our morning prayer service to begin Catholic Schools Week was an opportunity for us to introduce our new strategic plan campus wide. Aaron, in our marketing department, filmed different events on St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus, and created an effective visual of staff and students demonstrating our core values in everyday life – Faith, Collaboration, Integrity, Stewardship, Respect and Excellence. I’m proud to be a part of St. Joseph’s Indian School, and viewing the video with all our staff and students made me even more proud of what we are working on together as a community.

Before introducing the new vision and plan, I thanked everyone for the work they’ve done over the past four years to bring much of our current plan to fruition. The work we do now will lay a stronger foundation for future generations of students and staff, so that they can build on what we do today, and take St. Joseph’s forward in creative and exciting new ways.

All of St. Joseph's Indian School's youth durning Catholic Schools Week.
All the students smiling big during Catholic Schools Week.

After the staff went back to work, the students remained behind so we could take a school picture with everyone on the bleachers. Emily, our photographer, is good with the kids, and after everyone is well-behaved and she gets the pictures she needs, she lets everyone get a little wild for a fun snapshot, which the students love.

We had 5th and 6th grade basketball games after school against Crow Creek, which is the Indian reservation where perhaps 20% of our students are from.  There were families in the stands rooting for kids on both sides of the ball. After the games, I was slated to visit Cyr Home (4th-5th grade boys) for supper. One of the students, Ben, invited his family to stay for supper, so the ranks were swelled by six more guests. Paula, the houseparent who was cooking, found out just a few minutes beforehand. She has learned to be very accommodating and flexible. She took out a container of leftovers, opened up a couple more cans of fruit, and served smaller portions, but it stretched around to satisfy everyone at the table and the family had a nice visit.

Some of our students see their families regularly. For others, it doesn’t happen all that often. But we try our best to make families welcome whenever they are able to stay.