A few days before graduation…


When I come out of morning mass in the winter and walk past Wisdom Circle, the playground is empty. With the warmer weather, however, it has been filled with the laughter of the Lakota children squeezing in some play time before the school day starts.

Spring has finally arrived on the South Dakota Prairie! The flowers and bushes on campus are filled with fragrant and colorful blossoms. We seemingly went from winter to summer, skipping spring altogether, though we know our temperature swings will still be wild for some time to come.

Our Native American students from fifth through eighth grades have a chance to learn to play musical instruments. Yesterday, we gathered in Our Lady of the Sioux chapel to hear the fruits of their practice as they held a recital. Their skills are still pretty basic, but I admired their courage to get in front of their peers and risk hitting the wrong chord or note. We heard six piano solos, four guitars, two flutes, and clarinet and a drum. Some of the songs were very short. I was disappointed one of my old folk favorites, Oh Suzanna, finished before the rousing chorus. But you’ve got to love the kids for trying!

The Lakota children at St. Joseph’s have the opportunity to take music lessons.
Caden and Richie worked hard on their guitar pieces for the music recital.

After that, we held a farewell gathering in the Rec Center for St. Joseph’s Child Services staff who are retiring or moving on to new things. Huge cardboard greeting cards were laid out for everyone to sign, while looking over pictures and remembering. After everyone grabbed some refreshments, each of those staff were called forward, given a gift, and the opportunity to say a few words.

Steve started as a houseparent, but since I’ve been at St. Joseph’s Indian School, has been the lead tutor at our High School Learning Center. With a concerted effort from students and staff, the collective grade point average of St. Joseph’s high school students has gone up almost a full point over the last four years!

Gary and Marty guided high school girls for the past two years, and Anita has mentored our young men for the past four.

Frank and Wanda have been houseparents for 26 years!!! They are retiring to spend more time with their own children and grandchildren. Over the years they’ve parented so many St. Joseph’s kids who consider them family. They were each wrapped in a Lakota star quilt as a sign of honor and appreciation. Many tears and tons of hugs followed. We pray for all those moving on to new adventures.

St. Joseph’s high school students finish classes at the end of this week. Elijah, one of our seniors, had high enough grades to be exempted from his finals and is completely done. This evening, our houseparents organized a back yard end-of-the-year cook out. Hot dogs and hamburgers taste mighty good when shared in the beautiful outdoors with good friends, conversation, and a few games thrown in to boot.

With the help of the local ministerial association, Chamberlain High

School organized their Baccalaureate Ceremony this evening. We hosted the service in our Lady of the Sioux Chapel. Area pastors offered some words of prayer, but all of the readings and music were organized by the students. The evening was uplifting as we prayed for God’s help for all the youth of our community who are transitioning on to the next stages of their education and careers.

Author: St. Joseph's Indian School

At St. Joseph's Indian School, our privately-funded programs for Lakota (Sioux) children in need have evolved over 90 years of family partnership, experience and education. Because of generous friends who share tax-deductible donations, Native American youth receive a safe, stable home life; individual counseling and guidance; carefully planned curriculum based on Lakota culture and individual student needs and tools to help build confidence, boost self-esteem and improve cultural awareness. All of this helps children to live a bright, productive, possibility-filled future.

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