I have a dream…

Claire, Paraprofessional
Claire, School Librarian

Greetings from St. Joseph’s Indian School!

Last week in the school library, we celebrated the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. I started out each class by asking the students what they already knew about MLK.  Some of them knew quite a lot, and others (depending on their age) not so much.  They were quick to volunteer what they did know: He was shot! He worked to make whites and blacks get along!  He had a dream!

I talked to them about what King’s dream was—that his children would not be judged by their skin color, but by their insides… “the content of their character.” Then I asked the students to write down what their dream for the future was: two sentences, please, or one sentence plus a picture for the younger students.  I let them know that the dreams would be posted in the library and in the hallway.

Asking kids about their dreams is exciting because you never know what you’re going to get. Some students were confused because they “could never remember their dreams when they woke up.”  This led to some discussion about the difference between your dreams at night, and the things that you hope about for the future.

Dreams ran the gamut from immediate (Claire will give me some candy) to long term (I want to go to college, get a job and take care of my family). There were a lot of future NBA/ NFL hopefuls, as well as potential nurses, teachers and doctors.  Some students wanted to meet (or beat) their icons, like Stephen Curry and Adele.  Others wanted to vote for a Native American presidential candidate.  And one kid wanted to go the evil genius route and rule the world. Bwa ha ha.

Many students had dreams of seeing better things in the world, like no war, bullying or ISIS. They would like people to stop fighting and doing drugs.  They dreamt of having their Lakota (Sioux) culture and language preserved, and of going to powwows and sewing regalia.  One student wished that single moms didn’t have to work so much that they couldn’t spend time with their kids.  Another dreamed of having lots of money so they could help out their family.

Some students were quite adamant that they had “no dreams.” I wasn’t quite sure whether they meant that they were in full-on despair, or that their “dream” was to avoid having to write two sentences.  Maybe both?

It is risky to talk about dreams, because maybe they won’t come true.  Or maybe people will laugh.  Or maybe their dreams have been stomped on enough that they aren’t worth having.  I don’t know.  I just dared them to dream anyway—even if it was just that we would have candy for lunch.

What I do know is this: being at St. Joseph’s helps these students reach for their dreams. They are able to be connected to their culture, get an education and give back to their communities.  Maybe playing for the St. Joseph’s Braves or the Chamberlain Cubs is their first step towards playing for the Golden State Warriors, and maybe graduating middle school/high school is their first step towards a teaching degree.

Thank you for supporting our students and staff as we reach for the future.


Earning privileges

Temperatures have dipped down into the low teens the past couple of days as winter reminded us it’s just around the corner. I bundled up good and walked down to chapel for our regular morning mass. When I came out of chapel, the high school students were walking toward the bus to pick them up. A few of our older students who have driver’s licenses and good grades have earned driving privileges, and we have a few high mileage cars in the fleet they can take to school, sports and/or play practices.  Errol has earned that privilege, but today he also learned about responsibility. He had to come out early to scrape the ice off the windshield and get the car defrosted.

Another student was waiting for me by my office. All those going out for basketball have to sell a number of gift certificate packs to restaurants and businesses in town to help pay for their equipment. Kyle got my money, then later I was asked by two other ball players. Our staff tries to be generous and help students out with such purchases, but there are only so many coupons and magazine subscriptions you can buy.

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.

Guest Blogger: Claire

Hi again!  My name is Claire, and I am a houseparent in the high school program. I’m excited to be back, starting my fifth year here at St. Joseph’s Indian School. This week is all-staff orientation.  Those of us that have been gone part of the summer rejoin our hard-working year-round colleagues for a week of training, refreshers and refocusing.  This can be pretty exciting, especially when we all arrive in chapel on Monday morning and someone holds up a “free hugs” sign.  Woo hoo!

We usually start off with smudging—the Lakota tradition of burning sage—which is a symbolic cleansing of our minds, hearts and bodies with the smoke.  This sets a prayerful space and atmosphere for our work together in the upcoming year.

Our orientation theme this year was “Nourishing Mind, Body, Heart and Spirit.”

How cool is that?

After all, we are not just about teaching reading, writing and arithmetic.  Our goal is to prepare kids for life outside of St. Joseph’s, so they can be strengthened by relationships, faith, a sense of culture and history, and skills for living.  In order to do that, we have to bring our whole selves into the equation—which is why we start the year with prayer, sage, free hugs and even some darn good bread which the Pastoral Care staff handed out.

A lot of this week is about remembering our mission, and focusing on what we hope to accomplish in the upcoming year.  For us houseparents, one challenge is to bring the oyate values outlined in our Circle of Courage into our daily routines.  Those values are: Belonging, Independence, Mastery and Generosity.

We all agree that we do a great job at building a sense of belonging.  We are very good at building relationships with our kids, their families and with each other.  We are turning our attention to other areas where we are not so strong.  Sometimes, in our efforts to build relationships, we end up doing too much for our kids, to the detriment of their sense of mastery, independence and generosity.  We had some serious and thoughtful discussions on how and where we can work on these areas.

Not all of orientation is fun, I will admit.  Our newly hired staff have already completed a full week of training, and their heads are about to explode with facts, figures, rules and guidelines.

Veteran staff members groan a bit when we get to the part that we have heard every year.  Over and over and over.  For those of you who are uninitiated in the joys of orientation, let me sum up Day Two as briefly as possible:

  Rule #1:  Treat your co-workers with respect.  Play Nice.

Rule #2:  If you make a mess, please clean it up.

Rule #3:  If the mess involves blood or other body fluids, use gloves.

Rule #4:  If the mess is on fire, call 911.

Rule #5:  If you can’t seem to follow Rule #1, make SURE you follow Rules #2-5.

I think I can manage that!

Thank you for continuing to hold the kids and staff at St.  Joseph’s in your prayers as we kick off the 2012-2013 school year.  So far, we’re off to a good start.




Bikes, ABCs and peaches

Today, I again visited the first grade classroom, where I have the most new names to learn. I was confused, and got a few of the names switched around. The first graders were also confused about my name.

“Are you really our teacher’s Father?” one asked!

They were reviewing the alphabet, and learning the letters by learning a chant and clapping pattern. While there are some things kids learn that we forget over the years, I was still pretty solid remembering my ABCs, and joined along to help them review. While most of our students have returned and breathed new life and energy into the campus, something was missing, and I couldn’t identify it until today. After school I saw the procession of the bicycles from their storage place in the picnic pavilion. The children parked them in their rightful places in front of the homes, and now the place is looking more like it should. It does my heart good to see the smiles of glee on youngster’s faces as they pedal around Wisdom Circle.

While on my way across campus, I came across a kickball game among the Afra Home (1st-3rd grade) girls. They got excited when I jumped in to take a turn. I kicked the ball over their heads, but ran slow enough for them to throw at me and get me out between second and third bases, before I went on my way toward another meeting. While I can’t always spend long blocks of time with the students, it’s those brief moments for a little fun and joy in life that create lasting memories and give meaning to my role here.

For our school lunches in the dining hall, as well as in meals served in the homes, we have been trying to emphasize more fruits and vegetables. Parts of South Dakota, especially Indian reservation communities, are often classified as a “food desert,” which is an area where choice and variety are limited and located more than one mile from the nearest grocery store. That point was brought home to me tonight in the Speyer Home (6th-8th grade boys). One of our new students was really enjoying the bowl of freshly frozen mixed fruit set before him.

“These orange things are pretty good – what are they again?” – the answer was peaches!

It was his first experience with peaches. If we’re going to help the next generation stave off diabetes and other health issues, we need to get them to try a variety of foods rich in vitamins and minerals. Without too much homework to rush off to yet, and sports practices still a week away, the guys sat around the table without rushing off, and talked about fun things they got to do over the summer.

Lakota home remodeling project

The kids are so excited to see the finished homes!
The kids are so excited to see the finished homes!

The Lakota (Sioux) homes are eight homes in four buildings, two homes in each building. The homes are the Cyr/Perky, Fisher/Pinger, Speyer/Rooneyand the Stevens/Mathias. These homes were originally built in 1982. Our remodeling started in 2008 with the Cyr/Perky Home and we are finishing the project this year with the Stevens/Mathias Home.

During the renovations the kids that are assigned to those homes, are temporarily house in another home on campus.  The renovations usually begin when school is dismissed for the summer and finishes up the following summer.  Therefore, the home is under construction for one school year.

Part of the homes have had the walls opened up to make the family living and study areas more open. Handicapped bathrooms were also added.

To make the homes more energy-efficient:

  • new windows were added
  • the heating and cooling systems were upgraded
  • more insulation was installed
St. Joseph’s remodeling projects are going great.
St. Joseph’s remodeling projects are going great.

With the completion of the last of the home remodeling this year, the children will be living in homes that are cooler in the summer and much warmer on the coldest winter days, with all the conveniences of home.

PS – read more about St. Joseph’s Indian School remodeling projects here!

Your friends,

The Facilities Team