On Friday, May 26th, 15 students were honored as they finished their grade school years at St. Joseph’s Indian School. One of the most joyful events of the year, graduation is always a celebration of thiyóšpaye – extended family – among relatives, staff and students of the school.
This year, South Dakota State Senator from the 27th District Red Dawn Foster addressed students. A member of the Oglala Sioux and Navajo Tribes, Foster holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Colorado, Denver, and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame. She champions educational standards, environmental stewardship and justice for missing and murdered indigenous persons.
Foster’s message was uniquely personal. The class had met her on a school trip to the Capitol and requested her as their speaker. She met them again over Zoom calls to come to know them and to shape her talk. She reminded them that their future is full of opportunity, and they can achieve great things.
“Most of all, be kind to yourself and others,” she advised and added, “That is the essence of being a good relative.”
Smiling gently, she told them, “Remember you have an auntie at the Capitol, and you can call her.”
The school honored Whitney Jones, Sičháŋǧu Lakota, who lives and works in Mission, S.D. and attended St. Joseph’s from 1976-84, as the school’s 2023 Distinguished Alumnus. Jones is a school counselor at St. Francis, a rancher and a truck driver. This alum who doesn’t sit still has a mission to help in many ways as he can and uses his sobriety and positive life experiences to make life better for those around him.
“Do something positive that people will remember you for,” he advises.
Jones completed a degree in Chemical Dependency from Sinte Gleska in 2016 and is working toward a Master’s in Counseling and state certification in driver’s education.
Mario is a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Mario plans to continue his education in the St. Joseph’s High School Program. He fondly remembers a home trip to Sioux Falls and mall shopping. He hopes to be a mechanical engineer.
Jalonna, a member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, plans to attend high school in Chamberlain. Her favorite school memory is learning about her culture through the Seventh Grade Cultural Trip. Jalonna wants to be a Certified Nursing Assistant when she grows up.
Taylen is a member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe. His favorite memory of school was the staff vs. students basketball game. After completing high school and college, Taylen would like to be a basketball player or coach.
Makaia is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band. Her favorite memories are the Seventh Grade Cultural Trip, playing hide-and-seek and socializing. Makaia plans to be in the St. Joseph’s High School Program and become a physical therapist one day.
Memphis, a member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, plans to attend high school in Chamberlain. His favorite memories are fishing with his houseparents, the Seventh Grade Cultural Trip and sweats. He is still exploring his options for his future.
Kaedyn is a member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe. After high school, Kaedyn wants to be an artist. Kaedyn’s favorite school memory is the buffalo harvest because he liked the view of all the buffalo.
Amelia, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, plans to attend St. Joseph’s High School Program. Her favorite memory is the Seventh Grade Cultural Trip. She plans a career working with children.
Jack is a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. After high school, Jack wants to go into the military. His favorite school memory is enjoying his time outside of the classroom with friends.
Paul, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, plans to attend high school in Chamberlain. His favorite memory is when the cloud came over the boys at Bear Butte on the Seventh Grade Cultural Trip. Paul plans to go into the military.
Demarius is a member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe with plans for high school and becoming a pilot. His favorite school memory is the big cabin on the Seventh Grade Cultural Trip.
Oyate Wawokiye is a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. His favorite St. Joe memories are having fun and learning. He loved the home trip to Sioux Falls and going to AirMadness. After 8th grade graduation, Oyate plans to be in St. Joseph’s High School Program. He hopes for a career playing sports.
Emilia, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, plans to attend high school. Her favorite school memories are the Seventh Grade Cultural Trip and being with friends. She wants to be self-employed, make ribbon skirts and do beadwork!
Secret is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. She plans to attend high school. Secret remembers the Seventh Grade Cultura trip fondly. Secret wants to be a doctor and have a profession.
Gabriel, a member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, plans to attend Chamberlain High School and work hard in basketball. His favorite school memory is the students vs. staff basketball game. He wants to play for the NBA.
Consuelo is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. She plans to attend the St. Joseph’s High School Program. Consuelo’s favorite memory was the buffalo harvest. Consuelo wants to be a social worker.