Bridging cultures at St. Joseph’s Indian School

Han, LaRayne imaciyapi. Hello, my name is LaRayne.

LaRayne is St. Joseph's Native American Studies teacher.
LaRayne, St. Joseph’s Native American Studies teacher

I am honored to teach Native American Studies classes at St. Joseph’s Indian School.  We recently had a Sunday Mass that incorporated Lakota elements, and it felt great!  It’s that indescribable feeling when you are centered in the soul and have “wolakota.”


It was the Feast of Christ the King, the end of the liturgical year in the Catholic Church. It didn’t feel like and end, but a new beginning. The service began with the beat of the drum by our student drum group, the Chalk Hill Singers. Members of our powwow royalty and fellow housemates, dressed in full regalia, danced up the aisle honoring the path of the Staff carried by our Eagle Staff Bearer, Joe. My feet couldn’t help but to tap the earth when the sticks made music with sound of our rawhide drum and the voices of our boys. The shawls flowed, the bells and cones rung and it felt like smiles were swelling in the hearts of all present.


The Chalk Hills Singers, St. Joseph’s drum group, were part of the Lakota Mass.
St. Joseph’s drum group, the Chalk Hills Singers, took part in the Lakota Mass.

A basket of prayers wrapped in red cloth, made by our students and staff, was carried and placed at the altar as an offering to honor those who have passed into the spirit world and those for whom we pray.


The opening prayer, the readings and the homily taught us about “Mitakuye Oyasin,” the belief that we are all related. In the reading, Mathew 25: Jesus said “Whatever you did for one of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” This parallels our Lakota ceremony of the Hunka, or making of a relative.  Once this sacred ceremony is done, you will have a bond to share all that you have. By treating all people just as you would Jesus or the Great Spirit, one will “do well because it is right.”


The best value a member of our tribes can possess is that of generosity. Sunday during Mass, the choir shared their musical talents by singing “Amazing Grace” in both Lakota and English. With the sounds of the students speaking the tongue of their ancestors from many years past, the congregation recited the Lord’s Prayer in Lakota. I could feel the confidence in the voices of the students praying loud and proud. Lots of compliments were shared and accepted after Mass from our staff and members of our community who came to join in our prayer.


After the Eucharistic Prayer, Father Anthony asked the Great Spirit to bless us with a great week and Thanksgiving holiday as the students traveled home to see family and friends. But, before the end, we sang birthday wishes to those celebrating this week in the Lakota version of “Happy Birthday.”


The service ended just as it began: The dancers (and those who couldn’t keep their feet from dancing to the beat of the drum) exited the sanctuary knowing that Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel bridges cultures spiritually in the lives of the families we serve at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

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.

4 thoughts on “Bridging cultures at St. Joseph’s Indian School”

  1. My dearest LaRayne. Thank you for such a beautiful account of that day’s Mass and significance to the your parish family and friends everywhere. The richness of description brought us to a toe tapping sentiments within the room alive with shawl’s pulsing to each beaten reply of the drum skins resounds. A Pow Wow for the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit. And certainly the raising of voices was another crowning glory to this one of many beautiful events. And for your part you brought us there. God bless you and the parish and friends everywhere.

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