Keeping busy at St. Joseph’s Indian School!

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

Greetings from St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota!

Summer is ‘officially’ over here in Chamberlain. The new city swimming pool is closed for the year and public school started this week.

Our high school students arrived on Sunday and participated in a two-day orientation program before school began on Wednesday. Our high school volleyball, cross country and football teams all have meets and games this week.

I recently attended the football team’s scrimmage and joined the coaches and players when they came out to St. Joseph’s for a team building meal at the Sheehy Home. It was a great night.

You may recall that I recently mentioned our 4-6 grade students can participate in football with the local team. They had their first practice on Tuesday evening. Our students were very excited to try on their equipment and hit the field. St. Joseph’s is honored to be able to host the practices and games as a way to help our students get to know their peers from the Chamberlain community better.

On Saturday morning, some of our students participated in the Chamberlain Youth Triathlon. They were able to swim, bike and run—all on campus. It was a fun experience for all!

A boy dances during St. Joseph's Annual Powwow.
Our Lakota (Sioux) students enjoy learning about their Native American culture and participating in our annual powwow.

We were scheduled to have an inipisweat lodge—  with our 7-8 grade boys on Saturday afternoon, but the high wind made it too dangerous to have a fire.

Please keep the members of the American Province of the Priests of the Sacred Heart in your prayers this week. Since our former Provincial, Fr. Steve Huffstetter, SCJ, was elected to our General Council in Rome, we are gathering this week to elect a new Provincial and Council. May the Holy Spirit guide our deliberations.

Our students are getting ready for our 39th Annual Powwow on September 19. They have several dance practices scheduled and staff members have been meeting to talk over plans to ensure another successful event. We have even started praying for good weather! We hope you will be able to attend. If you have any questions about the three day event, please feel free to call 1-800-584-9200 or visit

Have a great Thursday. May God’s blessings continue to be with you and yours.

Fr. Anthony Kluckman, SCJ


Visitors from far and wide

While South Dakota is a very rural and out-of-the-way state, we get a lot of visitors at St. Joseph’s Indian School who are passing through in the summer on their way to visit the Badlands, Black Hills and Mount Rushmore. There is also a great interest in Native American culture, and our Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center receives a few hundred visitors each day during the summer.

We’ve noticed many visitors from Europe but recently, a groups of six Spanish-speaking tour guides stopped in to look at our museum. There is a great interest in travelers from South America as well, and they plan to bring folks from there our way this summer.

I dusted off my rusty Spanish to welcome them and say a few basic things about campus, which made them feel more at home. A guide from Argentina studied with the Jesuits, and shared that his best teacher was Jorge Bergolio, now Pope Francis. I called Fr. Jose over to the museum since he is fluent in several languages and he spent more time helping them tour and become familiar with what we can offer visitors.

German lessons

With a last name like Huffstetter, I definitely have some German ancestry, but my forebears came to this continent in 1736, before there even was a United States. I have picked up a few words of German over the years, but it is still very limited. We recently had a donor from Germany visit the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center – Anna, who spoke no English. Once I got past my basic greetings of welcome and hello, I relied on her daughter, Gabriele to translate as we toured the campus.

When Anna said that she had a great interest in Native American culture, even as a young girl, I remembered learning of the German author Karl May whose books about the American west captivated many generations of folks overseas.  I recalled a phrase and asked:

Haben Sie Karl May gelesen? (Have you read Karl May?)

Gabriele started to translate what I asked, then stopped as she realized that I had actually asked the question in German. We all had a good laugh.

We visited one of the third grade classrooms to observe the students in a reading lesson. Anna hoped to get a picture or two and plenty of hands went up when I asked for volunteers. St. Joseph’s students are taught to be polite and greet visitors by introducing themselves (first names only). I told them that if they wanted to say “My name is (I am called)” They should say:

Ich Heisse . . .  Fr. Steve

St. Joseph’s students enjoyed a German meal to learn basic phrases in the language.
Foods and dishes were labeled in German to help students learn basic words.

Shaniece was the first to gently put out her hand and quietly say “Ich Heisse Shaniece.”

Jaren followed with a similar greeting, and several other kids offered their hand and greeting as well. It brought a smile to our visitors, and a nice lesson in cross cultural understanding and hospitality.

We will have four of our Lakota high school students visit our sister school in Handrup, Germany in June. To help prepare, Clare, Anita and Maija planned a German-themed meal in the Crane home. Dishes and foods were labeled in German, and each participant was given a sheet of simple but helpful phrases like bitte (please) and danke (thanks) to practice.

In the background, the TV ran a slide show of past German trips to encourage student interest.  Maija gave quizzes about elements of German culture. Wyatt shared that he found an app for his phone that will help him with some basic translations. Anita’s combined creation of German Chocolate Cherry Black Forest Cake may not have been authentic, but it was certainly delicious! All in all, we had a fun and festive evening.

St. Joseph’s high school students will visit our sister in Handrup, Germany this summer.
Ashley and Erica enjoy their German meal.

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!

Guest Blogger: Dixie

Hello everyone, here is a quick update on what is happening at the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center!

The new Historical/Alumni Center addition is complete! Visitors can now access the museum through the new front entrance.

The exhibits for the Historical Center are in the process of being fabricated by Split Rock Studios.  The installation process is scheduled for December 2012 – February 2013. Split Rock Studios will be working on site during this time; I understand that the exhibit installation is an interesting process and invite everyone to stop over and explore the progress.

Over the past few weeks, we have moved our museum collection out of the old storage building into our new collection storage space.  Sara C. our Curator/Conservator has moved into her lab space and will now begin the process of re-housing our collection in our new space.

Last week we were busy dismantling museum exhibits and moving out of the museum classroom and Collector’s Gallery, preparing for the next phase of the construction project.

This week, Phase II began! The contractors started enclosing the space to the east side of the museum that will undergo renovation.   In this area we will be removing the reception desk and expanding the Camp Circle story line to chronicle the importance of childhood and adolescence among the Plains tribes.  The Collector’s Gallery area will be opened up to make room for the additional exhibits. The existing entrance and bathrooms will be removed and replaced with additional gift shop space.

There is still a lot of site work and landscaping that needs to be done around the building; some of this work is in progress now and some will be delayed until next spring.

The museum will remain open to the public during this construction phase, though there will be periods of time that will require us to close.

Throughout this project we have relied heavily on assistance from our Facilities team and I would like to thank Tom, Gary, Quentin and their staff for all they have done.   We have a great Facilities crew; no matter what the task is they get right after it.  Thank you!


Guest Blogger: Marina

Hau kola – hello friends!

My name is Marina and I have worked at St. Joseph’s Indian School since 1971.  As you can imagine I have seen many changes and they definitely have all been GOOD!

I work in our business office where I manage our mail schedule and send out all the special packages you receive, keeping you informed of what the Lakota boys and girls are doing.  Over the years our mail program has changed in many ways. We are always looking for new ways to share information with you on what the students are doing, how they are progressing in school and the importance for each child to be proud of and learn about their Native American culture.

For those who are just learning about our work with Native American children I invite you to visit our website, It is filled with information that will give you an inside glimpse of what we are all about.

Although, I don’t work directly with the students I am proud to be a part of their tiyospaye extended family.  To see the happy faces of the children as they play outdoors, participate in our annual powwow and just enjoy the safety they feel in their homes and classrooms is simply amazing.

Thank you for the special part YOU play in making their dreams come true as you share your blessings with each Lakota child!

I hope the photos and mailings I send your way bring you a sense of joy and pride for all you do for the Native youngsters on the prairies of South Dakota.

May our paths cross as we put our efforts together to provide a hope-filled future for the Lakota boys and girls.

Guest Blogger: LaRayne

Native American girl enjoying a Lakota game.
Tasha had so much fun playing new hand games!

Our new Cultural Specialists brings Hand Games to St. Joseph’s Indian School.

David Z. is bringing knowledge, fun and more culture to St. Joseph’s Indian School! Dave is an elder who carries knowledge from a variety of areas.  One of the areas is in the songs of the Lakota (Sioux).  He sings at the drum for ceremonies, wacipispowwows – and also knows hand games.

We plan on taking a team of students to the Lakota Nation Invitational in December for hand games; the students are very excited about this opportunity!  On Monday, October 8, we celebrated Native American Day in South Dakota. At St. Joseph’s, we played hand games during our Native American Studies classes. This day also served as a try out for the traveling hand game team. Students are asked to learn a hand game song and the rules that apply to the game.

On a broader scale, Dave will be helping spread culture, knowledge and curriculum to the organization as a whole.  We look forward to the opportunity for Dave, the students, our organization and communities near and far.

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.

Guest blogger: Claire

Today is the day!  After months of preparation, it is finally time to leave for the cultural trip with the 7th graders.  The boys and girls travel in separate groups, visiting significant cultural, spiritual and historical sites of the Lakota people.  I will be traveling with the girls, and we will be making a large loop through South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota.

The purpose of this trip is to introduce the students to places that are important to their Native American culture.  More than just reading about things in a book, they can experience the power of these places up close.   An important component of this trip is daily journaling, so they can record their feelings and impressions for later.  If there comes a time in their lives when they need spiritual strength, they will know some of the places and traditions that can sustain them.  And it’s not all just “serious stuff.”  We get to do goofy camping stuff too, like cook out, tell ghost stories and chuck rocks into the crick.  This is an amazing group of kids, and it is great to spend time with them.

Dan looks like george Custer!
We think Dan might resemble George Custer a bit!

My companions on this journey will be April, a counselor here and a Dakota elder, and Dan, a houseparent and forensic anthropologist.  We will be accompanying 6 teenage girls on a 7 day, thousand mile quasi-camping trip.  In a mini-bus.  For those of you already moaning in sympathy, it is ok. We are professionals.  We can handle this.  We will be mostly cabin camping, which removes the logistical nightmare of pitching tents in the dark, or in a flood plain, or other such creepy things, while still being close to the great outdoors.  (Let the boys sleep under the stars or pitch tents on the prairie, or whatever.)  We will be doing a lot of hiking.  Did I mention I used to be a Girl Scout?  That means I can use a compass.  Of course Dan has GPS on his phone, so that’s a moot point.

The trip covers a lot of territory, but I will share some of the highlights.  On Saturday we will be climbing Bear Butte in the Black Hills.  This is very sacred site for many Native American tribes, and is a place where people may go for a hanbleceyavision quest.  April will teach the girls how to make prayer ties for the climb, and will carry a canupe – sacred pipe for a ceremony at the summit.  Fr. Steve will be joining us for this part of the trip, and will celebrate Mass with us when we get back to town.

We will visit another sacred site, Devil’s Tower, on our way to see the Little Bighorn Battlefield.  Dan has done some analysis of artifacts from this site, and has lots of “really cool stuff” to share. (Normally, if Dan has “cool stuff” to share, you better not be eating, but this will probably be an exception.)  Other sites along the way are: Painted Canyons of North Dakota, On-a-Slant Village, Fort Abraham Lincoln, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Pipestone National Monument.

This is a big undertaking, and an incredible opportunity for these kids. All you campers out there know what I mean.   I am so grateful to have the support of donors and benefactors so that we can make this happen. I am also thankful for all the prayers from friends and supporters for our safe travels.  Pilamaya!  Doksa!


A group of Native American girls on the top of Bear Butte!
Here’s a picture of last year’s group on the top of Bear Butte!

Get your powwow brochure today!

The votes have been counted,

the results are in!

Look for Dakota’s picture on the cover of the 2012 powwow brochure  and poster!
"I feel the beats of the drum telling me when to stop and start. I feel confident because our ancestors are in heaven watching over us proudly."

Look for Dakota’s picture on the cover of the 2012 powwow brochure and poster!

Get your powwow brochure featuring the winning image as well as other information about attending St. Joseph’s Indian School’s annual powwow by visiting St. Joseph’s Indian School’s powwow website.

Pilamayathank you – all so much for your likes, shares and comments!