A time for reflection…

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

Greetings from St. Joseph’s Indian School!

We have finally had some time to reflect on our 39th Annual Powwow.

What a wonderful few days we had! The festivities began with a bus trip to the Crow Creek and Lower Brule Indian Reservations. I had a chance to meet with donors taking part in the tour to offer a prayer for safe travel before they hit the road. It seems that they all had a great time!

On Thursday evening, St. Joseph’s Indian School had a Meet & Greet. Several staff members and students met with guests to explain the programs offered at St. Joseph’s and answer any questions our visitors had.  We had two of our high school seniors and an alumnae who is currently working at St. Joseph’s share the impact our school has had on their lives.

Friday morning began with the announcement of our powwow  royalty–Eagle Staff bearer Treshawn; Junior Miss St. Joseph’s Aurelia; and Miss St. Joseph’s Frederika.  As our students headed off to class, our guests enjoyed breakfast and tours of the Nagel Business Office to see how our mailings are prepared and how envelopes with donations are handled.

From there, our donors and friends went to the Rec Center to make their own dreamcatcher and attend a demonstration of Native American children’s games.

On Friday afternoon, guests were able to tour the school with some of our students as their tour guides. A great time was had by all; students really enjoyed getting to talk with people from all over the country.

Over 400 guests and friends attended our Tiyospaye Banquet Friday evening. The highlight of the evening– besides the drawing for a star quilt– was the show of hands as to how many were attending their very first powwow.  It seemed that 75-80% of the hands went up! We were so honored that they chose St. Joseph’s as the place to experience their first powwow.

Though Friday was rainy and cool, Saturday dawned clear and pleasant.  Early risers had the chance to visit several of the

Lakota boy dances fancy dance in the powwow.
A St. Joseph’s student dances in the 39th Annual Powwow.

homes on campus to see where our students live.  Prior to the Grand Entry, several of our grass dancers came out to bless the powwow grounds. The Grand Entry began with a presentation of the colors, which all veterans present were invited to take part in.  The veterans in attendance were followed by the royalty from other Native American tribes and entities in the area and the many dancers who had come to take part in the powwow.

It is interesting to note that 102 St. Joseph’s students took part in the various dance categories, which enabled them to win some categories and place in others.  The weather was wonderful, the colors magnificent and the dance moves intricate.  Returning alumni were honored.  Guests were invited to take part in tribal dances which are open to anyone in attendance.

We culminated the day with Mass at Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel and a complimentary meal prior to announcing the winners of the dance contests and drum competition.  As things wound down, there were many compliments and ‘ohs’ and ‘ahs’ over what had taken place that afternoon.

We were honored to have so many guests, dancers, drum groups and staff all interacting in an enjoyable manner to make this one of the best powwows yet!  If you would like to see some of what happened, you can take a look at the video one of our staff members put together.

We were blessed to have great weather on Saturday and we thank you for your prayers to help make that possible.  I’m sure that many of those attending this year are already looking ahead to 2016.  As a quick reminder, St. Joseph’s annual powwow always takes place the third weekend in September.  We look forward to many powwows in the future and hope you can join us!

Fr. Anthony Kluckman, SCJ


Guest Blogger: Geri

Hello!  My name is Geri and I joined St. Joseph’s Indian School on August 20.  I’m delighted to be a ‘guest blogger’ and hope to share with you my ‘new to St. Joseph’s’ impressions!

What a warm, welcoming atmosphere!  I’ve had a variety of past work experiences, but none can compare to how welcome and comfortable I’ve been made to feel in the month since I’ve started.  I live in Mitchell and carpool with other St. Joseph’s employees Monday-Thursday and telecommute on Fridays.

Friends and family have asked me how the hour-long commute is going and I’ve honestly responded,

“It goes by remarkably fast, as we’re usually deep in conversation and surprised to see our exit sign.”

I’m amazed by how many people have worked at St. Joseph’s for 20, 25 or 30 years and very outwardly admit,

“I love working here – it’s a great place to work.”

I’ve had an opportunity to meet some of our Native American children and travel to the two reservations that 40% of our students come from, Lower Brule and Crow Creek.   The children are beautiful – and from the two times I’ve dined with them, amazingly polite and well-behaved.

The houseparents I met over dinner recently, Aleece and Leonard, are wonderfully kind and patient and have been at St. Joseph’s since 1988.  Their 1st-3rd grade boys were a joy to be around –proudly showing their regalia for the powwow and honestly remarking on my height (I’m north of 5’10”).

You may be wondering what my job at St. Joseph’s entails – let me tell you about that.  My title is Director of Major Gift Services and currently I’m working to gain an understanding of all that is happening in our development program while working towards the development of a major gifts program.

I have so much to learn, but it’s exciting!  I am looking forward to getting to know our supporters better and finding out what specifically they are passionate about and why they support St. Joseph’s, while at the same time learning all that I can about St. Joseph’s.

Feel free to share your thoughts with me!  My e-mail address is geri.beck@stjo.org.

Indian reservation bus tour

Indian reservation bus tour.
The group listens to our tour guide John, as he shares Native American history and cultural information!

Donors started arriving last evening to get their powwow information packets in preparation for our activity-packed event. Many have come from long distances out-of-state. For some, it is their first trip to South Dakota. Because our donors ask many questions and want to learn more about our area, we tried something new this year – a bus tour of the Crow Creek and Lower Brule Indian Reservations.

We had room for 50 guests, and interest was very high. We filled up right away and couldn’t take any more sight seers. John, a St. Joseph’s alumnus who grew up in Crow Creek, served as our tour guide. While on the road, he mixed historical and cultural background with corny humor to educate and entertain.

Our first stop was St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Fort Thompson. We had coffee, juice and rolls, and a chance to ask questions of Sister Charles, who has worked with Native people for over 50 years, and Deacon Steve, a Lakota from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation who now ministers in the community.

Our next stop was a set of flags set against the magnificent view of the Missouri River at the Big Bend Dam. They surround a medicine wheel that commemorates the 38 Dakota warriors who were executed by hanging during the 1852 Minnesota Uprising. The surviving family members were sent to Fort Thompson, hundreds of miles from their home and many died during the ensuing harsh winter. A sad piece of history, but one that puts perspective on the trauma people are still working to overcome.

Reservation life has a complexity to it. In Lower Brule, folks commented on housing conditions, with many small houses obviously in need of repair. Yet, they also saw efforts at economic development. Able to use water from the Missouri to irrigate, the Lower Brule farm cooperative is one of the largest producers of popcorn in the country. A few years ago the tribe decided that instead of just wholesaling the popcorn to agribusiness, they would develop their own brand (Lakota Popcorn) and add some jobs to their local economy by packaging and marketing it themselves. We also saw a small arts and craft store where workers produced items made of elk and buffalo hide and other local materials.

Our lunch stop included a hearty and tender buffalo stew, which folks seemed to enjoy.

The last stop was the tribal council chamber, and folks commented on the beautiful architecture. The room is in the shape of a large tipi. Out the window overlooking the pasture, they could see the tribe’s buffalo herd grazing in the distance. What impressed me the most was the quality of questions our donors asked – about treaty rights and trust issues, self-determination and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The people who came our way proved very passionate about Native American issues.

A few people, myself included, nodded off for a few winks on the half hour ride back home. The tour got high marks, and we think it’s a keeper for our powwow schedule.

An update from Fr. Steve

This week I was reminded of the scripture passage where Jesus told Peter that he would give him the keys to the kingdom. Because we changed the locks around St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus, I received a new set of keys. When you think about 19 homes, offices, classrooms, storage sheds and supply closets, there are hundreds of locks to change. While it is an expensive and time-consuming task to re-key all the locks, occasionally it has to be done to keep the campus secure and our most precious resource, our students, safe.

We keep chemicals and cleaning supplies that might be harmful to a child under lock and key. Prescriptions have to be in locked medicine cabinets. We also have alarms on all the homes that serve a dual purpose. We don’t want intruders to come in, and we also don’t want children leaving the homes after bedtime.

Some staff who didn’t check their email were mystified when they came to their office and the old key wouldn’t turn the nob. Not all the locks are changed out, and there has been some inconvenience and confusion as happens with any change. Folks are understanding and make the trek down to Facilities to get their shiny new keys. And more than one employee has remarked that it was time to update and upgrade.

Wednesday I traveled to Eagle Butte for the Board Meeting at the Sacred Heart Center. This year marks their 30th anniversary. To celebrate, after our meeting the staff organized a lunch celebration and invited past employees. Sr. Ruth Gareats, PBVM served as the 2nd director of the center. She remembers the day when all the services were cramped into one small building, with rummage spilling out into the soup kitchen and the women in the shelter waiting for their turn. Sr. Ruth brought along pictures to share that brought back so many memories.

Fr. Joe shared the trip’s driving. He is pastor of the parishes we serve on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation and Lower Brule Indian Reservation. Two of the sisters, Elaine and Mary Clement, had lovely and heartfelt farewell celebrations at the beginning of summer. The parishes are awaiting the arrival of two Sisters of Christian Charity to join the pastoral team in August.

The construction site of the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center.
The Akta Lakota Museum renovations continue to make progress.

We continue to make progress on the Akta Lakota Museum expansion and met with the architects and contractors to keep up with the projected timeline. A crew has also been pouring a lot of concrete in an effort to rebuild the road and tunnel caps and improve drainage across campus.

Two high school girls finished up their summer jobs, one as a nurses aid at the nursing home, and the other busy with maintenance on campus. LaToya loved visiting with the patients, and gained a lot more confidence driving (she just got her license) back and forth to work. Erica’s supervisor praised her thoroughness, and she said she liked dusting – probably my least favorite household chores. They will spend a few weeks home before school begins in mid-August. For the next two weeks we have no students on campus.

When we pulled up the old Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel carpet for replacement, we uncovered a nice floor mosaic on the tile below. We decided to polish it up and not carpet that area since it adds to the chapel decor.

The classrooms also got new carpet, the first in about 25 years of steady footsteps. The rooms also received a new coat of paint. That meant everything had to be moved, and it made for lots of rearranging. Teachers have been coming in early putting things back in order, and to recycle old and outdated materials. We have two new pastoral care/religious education teachers this year, and both were in the room going through many boxes and shelves of material to reorganize and see what they have to work with.

Friday night was the area Relay for Life event. As a cancer survivor myself, I found a lot of support from the group gathered to walk, celebrate another year of life, remember those who have died and celebrate the goodness of people who care. The event was held on campus, in Wisdom Circle. We had bands playing from a flatbed trailer, matching shirts for all the survivors and caretakers, and a wonderful community spirit.

Life teaches me

Life teaches me new things each day.

Sometimes, I’m totally surprised to see things I thought I knew from a completely different perspective.

We have our own printing press on St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus, Tipi Press, and I was giving a visitor a tour and stopped by to see how things were going. Mark showed us the large 4-color press going at full throttle. He had a powerful magnifying glass to show us how different colors are made not by mixing ink, as I supposed, but by printing a blend of small dots (1200 per inch) in four colors that, as you look from a distance, trick the eye into seeing one color. Many things in life, you have to look at carefully to discover how they really are.

I had lots of meetings today, working on revamping our pastoral care programs, going over finances, working on a narrative for the history of Indian boarding schools for our Akta Lakota Museum, reflection time with a summer intern and visiting with donors who stopped by to see our campus and programs their donations make possible.

Scranton Preparatory School from Pennsylvania has been coming to St. Joseph’s each summer for a few years. They are involved in service projects and helping with our Rising Eagle Day Camp.

After a full day of activity with the children who came to camp from Lower Brule Indian reservation, I caught the group in the Ambrose Home around the supper table. None of the students had ever been to South Dakota before, and it was fun to hear their initial impressions of the wide open prairie, the Badlands and Black Hills. I answered lots of questions about the school, students and families we serve, and began to find out a little about each of them.

I noticed a nice spirit and sense of fun and camaraderie among the group. As they raised money to pay for their mission trip, they ran into several friends and family members from their community who have been long time donors to our school. They were generous in helping these young people in their travels, and delighted to facilitate an even more personal impact and concrete difference.

Moved to tears

I went back to the Lower Brule Indian Reservation for the sad funeral of a 24-year-old man who died on the icy roads. Another car lost control and slid into the vehicle he was riding in. Besides knowing him from junior high when I was Lower Brule’s pastor, his mother was our parish secretary and dad very involved in the tribe and community. Austin was starting to make a name for himself in rodeo as a bronc rider, and had just started competing in the PRCA circuit. Sometimes people don’t picture Native American Indians as cowboys, but the Lakota were historically very good with horses. Many tribal people here ranch and rodeo and still spend  a good amount of time in the saddle. The community turned out in big numbers to support his family. I was in the middle of the procession of cars going to the burial site, and as I reached the top of a hill I could see two miles of cars ahead of me, and a mile of cars behind me. Such a sad day, but incredible support.

Takra, displaying Native American beauty.
The students did an excellent job of communicating the material and opening up about their struggles.

This evening the high school performed their one act play “We Wear The Mask”. It will be presented again Wednesday in Pierre, South Dakota at the regional competition. Tonight’s performance was for family and friends. The students themselves created the content from real life situations and journal entries, dealing with some of the most difficult issues teenagers face. They vividly made everyone more aware of the tough issues of drug and alcohol abuse, peer pressure, depression, and the whole angst which comes when you are trying so desperately to fit in and be loved for who you are.

Three of our St. Joseph Indian School students, Jatonne on guitar and Erica and Chris in acting roles, contributed to the show’s success. I was moved to tears of sadness a few times at the emotions and feelings expressed about their high school world. Appreciated is probably a better word than enjoyed, to measure my feelings and reaction at the performance. The students did an excellent job of communicating the material and opening up about their struggles.

Good luck at the next level!

Today’s guest blogger: Amanda

Today's guest blogger: Amanda
Today's guest blogger: Amanda

Hello everyone from Amanda. I am a Family Service Counselor here at St. Joseph’s Indian School; my caseload consists of about 20 6th-12th grade girls. This is my second summer here at St. Joseph’s and I must say I love everything about working here. During the school year there is a nice hustle and bustle with students and staff; however, in the summer things are more laid back. During the school year I am often busy seeing students for individual sessions, conducting counseling groups, attending meetings, keeping in touch with staff and visiting homes. During the summer, I along with the other family service counselors,visit our students at home along with interview prospective students for our admissions process.

A few of the students I work with stayed on campus for the summer programs offered; however, they are all now at home. One of the students who will be a senior next year completed and passed driver’s education. She was so excited that she passed and looks forward to cruising around next year. We are starting to look at life after high school. She is excited yet scared to think about leaving St. Joseph’s Indian School and being on her own. Another one of the students I work with returned last week from the Germany Exchange Program. She along with another student and staff were in Germany for about three weeks. She had so many wonderful stories to share along with pictures. She described her trip as a once in a life time opportunity and she was very grateful that she was chosen to represent St. Joseph’s Indian School!

Last week, I traveled to Rapid City, South Dakota to visit two of the students I work with and their families. Summer travel is one of my favorite things to do. It is nice to see the students in their home environment and hear about the different things that they have done or are planning to do. I also made a trip to the Lower Brule Indian Reservation to visit five students and interview four children for admissions. Some of my students asked how much longer break was because they were ready to come back to  St. Joseph’s Indian School. One of the students I work with said,

Being at home for so long was too boring and the temptation to give in to peer pressure was getting hard and hard to turn down.

I spoke with the student about the things she wanted to accomplish in her life along with how she has seen firsthand the consequences of using drugs and alcohol. We brainstormed a plan of action to help her resist giving in peer pressure.

Yesterday, I traveled to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and Wanblee to visit one of my students and interview four students for admissions. It was great to sit down and chat with my student and her guardian. We established a game plan together to help her raise her grades and be more motivated. The drive to Pine Ridge is breath taking; it makes you think of all the history the South Dakota Badlands hold.

Today I was supposed to travel to Eagle Butte to visit a family. However, due to the recent rain and high river we canceled our trip for safety reasons. I will be volunteering to help fill sandbags this afternoon to help ensure that businesses and homes in town stay dry.  Thank you for your time and God Bless!