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.

Guest Blogger: Fr. Anthony

Dear Benefactors:

Greetings once again from the banks of the Missouri River at St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, SD.  Fr. Steve is in transit coming back from a donor luncheon in the Boston area.  He stated there was good attendance and when they were finished the team had a chance to do some whale watching.

Since he is away, I was asked to ghost write his blog.  My name is Fr. Anthony Kluckman, SCJ and I am the chaplain here at St. Joseph’s. I had the chance last year to help out when Fr. Steve was away and am happy to be in contact with you again.

The students and staff are starting to settle in as we begin the third week of school for grades 1-8 and second full week for our high school students who started on August 15th.

Several of our high school students are part of the Chamberlain High School Cub’s football team.  They had their first game this past Friday night out in Hot Springs, in the Black Hills, and brought home a 7-0 victory.  This Labor Day weekend, they will have their first home game against Valentine, Nebraska.

Football is in the air at St. Joesph’s just as many of the pro-teams are in the midst of their training camps.  Practice is underway for the Chamberlain/St. Joseph’s youth tackle football fundamental league open to students in the 5th and 6th grades.  The young people have some fun while learning the basics and it is a good way for all involved to make new friends.  In early September flag football will get underway for those in grades 1-4.  There will be footballs being thrown, kicked, fumbled and caught four nights out of the week.

This past Saturday morning, we saw 60+ young people from the local area around Chamberlain come to St. Joseph’s campus to take part in a youth triathlon.  Those under six took part in a bike ride and run.  The 7-15 age group  swam, biked and ran around the campus.  Many of our younger students took part in this event.  St. Joseph’s is always honored to take part in events that strive to offer fun and safe activities for local young people and their families.

Progress on renovations at St. Joseph's Indian School.
Progress on the Akta Lakota Museum!

The new addition to the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center is making a lot of progress since the groundbreaking at last year’s powwow. (Reminder that this year’s powwow will be September 13-16.  Hope you can come.)  Most of the new structure’s exterior is done and the remainder of time needed to get it ready will take part inside as the new display area is worked on along with the section on the history of St. Joseph’s Indian School.

One benefactor came through this past weekend on her way to view the Powwow at Pine Ridge.  She is coming back to visit St. Joseph’s and make a tour of our campus and facilities.  She came all the way from New York state.  The students welcomed her at our Sunday liturgy and then many of them and our staff thanked her for the items she brought.  We are always grateful for your generosity and keep you in our prayers asking that God will continue to bless and strengthen you.

Hope all of you have a safe, relaxing and enjoyable Labor Day weekend.

Reconnecting with the Native American youth

Since the high school students have returned, I’ve tried to spend some time in their homes, catching up on their summer activities and looking ahead to what they hope to accomplish this year. Since school is just beginning and there’s not yet a lot of homework or ballgames, it’s a good time to catch more of the students at home.

The other night at Hogebach Home (HS girls) we enjoyed a home cooked meal around a full table, with no one having to rush off. Erika, one of our seniors, was at the kitchen counter with job applications from four different fast food restaurants and two retailers in town. She is ambitious about trying to find a part-time job that will help with extra-curricular expenses now and begin to put some money away for college.

Another one of the students was feeling very overwhelmed thinking of all that she had to accomplish between now and graduation. Our houseparents and counselors are aware of such feelings and support our students through it all, encouraging them to work at projects slow and steady, in manageable chunks.

Our powwow committee had its first full meeting of the year. We’ve been doing this for 36 years, and have the routine down pretty good. When Tom, our head of facilities, was asked during the maintenance report/ update if he had any concerns, he simply said, “I hate to brag, but our guys got it all covered.” And they do. It takes a huge amount of work and lots of cooperation from every department on campus. It is a special duty and definitely worth the effort for staff, students and our visitors.

With all our Native American students now back, we enjoyed an opening school liturgy and picnic. Our picnic pavilion is still filled with furniture from our remodeling projects, so we decided to hold it in the dining hall. With the temperature at 92 degrees the air-conditioned area definitely worked out better. Some of the homes did choose to eat outside on the picnic tables. Seeing the students in small groups of about 8 to a table gave me the chance to walk around and visit. Between seeing students at school, church, in the homes and on the playground, it reinforces my memory and makes it easier to learn who each of the new kids are.

At school the 1st graders are still learning the basics. Teachers have their own system to get them to line up and move to a different activity, be it art, recess, lunch or Native American Studies. But it takes a while for them to settle down and they take a lot more time to get between point A and B. Given time and practice, they’ll soon settle into the routine.

The construction at the Akta Lakota Museum took an interesting turn as the workers used a crane to install the granite slabs that will be part of the water wall in the Medicine Wheel Garden. We hope that by the end of the month all the outside work will be completed.

God’s blessing on our school year

We had our first weekend mass with the students.  Some of the students who attend St. Joseph’s aren’t all that familiar with church and it takes a while for them to learn the songs, find their places in the book and get used to the routine. But there was a good and lively spirit in the pews as we gathered to pray and ask for God’s blessing on the new school year.

While the grade school students have completed a full week, our high school students didn’t have to be back until today. The students staying in the two homes open early for those participating in sports moved from their temporary quarters into the rooms they will have for the year. In the Giles Home (freshman boys) everyone was back early. The supper table was full as they wolfed down Aaron’s homemade vegetable beef soup. Melissa remarked that they worked with 1st-3rd graders last year, and they are going to have to adjust the quantity of food they cook considerably!

The upperclassman straggled in a little later, and one or two called in because of transportation difficulties. But it’s good to have the campus mostly full again and coming back to life.

Fascination and chuckles

This morning I attended a funeral at Fort Thompson, on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation. Rose was 90 years old and the matriarch of a large family. At the funerals I’ve attended of many elders, much of the congregation are gray-haired themselves. Rose outlived all of her contemporaries. Instead, the church was full of a lot of young people. Most of her 58 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren live in the area.

At Indian reservation funerals, it’s customary to start the services with a final viewing of the body before the casket is closed. Mourners also say a few words of comfort to the family, or give a hug or handshake. Today that process took over an hour as so many people streamed past. I have fond memories of Rose from my days as pastor there, and wanted to show my support to her family.

Today staff pulled together and the homes and classrooms are ready for the arrival of our students this weekend.

This was also the final day of our SCJ novices’ retreat. They will head back to Chicago and what the novitiate will bring them this year in a time of self discovery. I was truly blessed by listening to them listen to the Lord, and sharing with me where God is leading.

This evening was fun and festive as we took in the Lower Brule Tribal Fair and Powwow. We spent a little time at the rodeo grounds, where Juan Carlos was fascinated by the horsemanship. Next stop was the softball tournament, where James got several chuckles over the teasing banter of the PA announcer.

The highlight, of course, was the powwow with eleven drums singing traditional songs and the colorful Grand Entry with a procession of all the dancers.  The novices got their first taste of Fry Bread and Indian Tacos and found it quite tasty.

We saw lots of St. Joseph’s students. While some kids complain about having to go back to school, many of the youngsters I met were actually excited and looking forward to coming back.

That tells me we’re doing a few things right.

A weekend outdoors

St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus had all kinds of different activities going on. As I looked out my office window I saw our archers moving their targets from inside the gym to outdoors on the football field, where they could see how they fared with longer distances and wind. The t-ball field was active with a game, and the swings of the playground were arching high. The Explorers groups had a charity car wash to raise funds for a trip to Minnesota to see a Twins baseball game.

With just three weeks left of the high school year, a fair number of our older students attended Saturday school to catch up on missing assignments and make up work.

A few of the homes were away on their annual Home Trip. Two groups were in Rapid City touring the Black Hills. The Fisher Home (6th – 8th grade boys) spent the weekend only a half mile away, at American Creek Campground but enjoyed sleeping in tents, fishing and exploring the great outdoors.

The Sheehy Home (high school boys) celebrated Earth Day. They left campus with empty garbage bags, and scoured town until they returned with full ones.

Mid-afternoon, the high school homes gathered for a picnic. The day was sunny, but our prairie winds were fierce, sometimes gusting up to 45 miles per hour. The grills were moved inside the garage, and the meal was a tasty success. But neither potato chips nor paper plates lasted long on the picnic table before they were airborne. The basketball court was busy, but the players had to rely on layups rather than any finesse distance shots. I threw some horseshoes with a few of the guys and I think the wind even affected the flying metal shoes. I know it almost blew me over a couple of times!

Building relationships

Hi everyone! LaRayne here, St. Joseph’s Native American Studies teacher.

I recently teamed up with Sherry, one of our counselors, to oversee St. Joseph’s eight week inter-city basketball program.

Sherry and I were blessed with being able to watch some relationships being built between our St. Joseph’s Indian School girls and the girls from the Chamberlain community. We had 31 total girls take part in the fun and 16 of those were St. Joseph’s girls.  We had four teams which were named after four WNBA teams:  Charlotte Sting, Los Angeles Sparks, Washington Mystics and the Minnesota Lynx.  The Lynx have a connection to St. Joseph’s through a church in Minnesota.

Not only did the girls get to build relationships as a team on the basketball court, but also in other areas.  During the second week of the program, Sherry and I created a fun night of team building skills, games and activities along with a fun meal and a swim in the pool on our campus.  The girls continued to build relationships while playing a game they really love – basketball.  The community and campus come together for a great cause.  Our referees and coaches were all from the community as well as St. Joseph’s employees and family members.

The last week of inter-city encompassed two all star games (one for the younger and one for the older girls) and another hour in the pool to finish the program.

Sherry and I look forward to building this program in the years ahead so that when our students from St. Joseph’s attend the public high school, they will see familiar faces at high school and will have built some relationships that will last for years to come.

Youth group raises money for their community

Some of the boys here at St. Joseph’s are part of a group called the Explorers.

Over the past few years, this group has raised over $60,000 towards charitable giving in the local communities!

This year’s group has donated money to those battling cancer in and around the community of Chamberlain.

A large amount of the money comes from doing chores like raking leaves for community members who have a hard time getting around … or simply would rather have someone else do it.

The latest thing the Explorers did was go to Pierre, South Dakota and spent the day doing various educational activities in our State Capital.

The day started with a tour of the Capital building. We then went to the State Crime Lab, which the boys really enjoyed because of the shooting range.  Obviously, the boys couldn’t do any shooting, but they enjoyed watching the officers shoot.

After the Crime Lab, we went back to the Capital and meet with Governor Dennis Daugaard. The day ended with the Explorers being introduced on both the House and Senate floors of the Capital, where they received standing ovations for their work in the community!

While the day was educational for all the students, I think the highlight of the day for the kids was the buffet at the Pizza Ranch. Below is a picture of the boys enjoying themselves the restaurant.

Houseparent Nate

Native American boys eating at Pizza Ranch.
The boys really enjoying themselves the restaurant after a full day!

Learning from our Native American youth

This morning started with a staff appreciation breakfast at the dining hall. The food services crew put together a waffle bar with four different kinds of fruit toppings, along with syrup and whipped cream, that one could make into a creation to suit their own tastes. At these events, we also have a fun trivia contest to give staff a chance at winning door prizes. Donna, our Human Services Director told me we will have to figure out a new approach because, with the advent of smart phones, most of the people can just look up the answers at their fingertips!

I’m experiencing that time of year when there are fewer big projects to attend to, but lots of little, ongoing, daily events. While those aren’t the kind most likely to make headlines, sometimes it is most satisfying just to roll with the day as it unfolds and be able to pay attention to the people who pass my way.

Today I wrote copy for upcoming newsletters and visited the classrooms at school. Our photographer, Emily, was around and snapped a few shots that you’ll probably see somewhere down the road. This evening, I met with two of our high school girls, Daylon and Erica, who will travel to Miami, Florida next month. Both are freshmen and both have been here for seven years.

I learned a lot from their perspective as they talked about what they will share with our donors about their lives at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

Student projects doing great

A couple interesting student projects of note. The William Home (4th-5th grade girls) has set a goal this quarter of 10,000 cumulative laps around the gym. Several mornings each week the home gets up early and goes out for a walk and exercise. They are keeping a thermometer on the door to the fitness room and coloring in their progress as they reach each new level. They’ve already passed the 3500 mark!

Gina’s computer class is spending a few minutes each day at the website Free Rice where fun quizzes increase their knowledge, make learning fun and educate them about hunger issue throughout the world. The students were talking about the activity even on the playground, so I knew it was a big hit.

Today was my day to run errands in town, to the bank and county building. While out, I stopped in to check on our folks downtown at our Thrift Store. With February around the corner, they’re redecorating with lots of red clothing for Valentine’s Day. The store is a great service to the community, and a good after school job opportunity for a few of our Lakota students.

St. Joseph's Indian School's cheeleaders.
These girls did a great job cheering on the basketball teams!

I ended the day in the gym, where our 6th-8th grade teams were in action. Besides the players, I cheer for our cheerleaders and encourage them to keep on improving. They had the help of our younger students, the 1st-3rd graders, who make up the pep club. This year they all have matching shirts that are St. Joseph’s basketball-style jerseys. They sure get both enthusiastic and loud when they start cheering. Half way through the games however, the time came for them to leave for supper, homework and bedtime. The gym quieted down considerably, but the action was still close and worth cheering for.