Smiles and happy memories from our Lakota youth

One routine the junior high youth look forward to as the weekend begins is Friday Night Canteen. Our students earn a few dollars of allowance, depending on how they’ve done helping with their assigned home charges, or chores, during the week. Friday is payday, and a chance to buy a pop or sports drink, some popcorn or treat at the Rec Center concession stand. The 6th-8th graders have the gym to themselves from 8:00 until 9:00, and I stopped by to see what they were up to. A high percentage were playing basketball, which is the favorite sport here at St. Joseph’s Indian School. Some were in the game room, playing pool and table tennis. A few sat in the bleachers, talking with friends. All relaxing and having a good time.

Saturday was a day to “supercharge” the homes, with a deep cleaning and straightening up of bedrooms and common rooms. In the afternoon our bowling league began.  Staff supervise teams of four students and teach them the basics, then give them a chance to roll a few games at the Chamberlain Bowling Alley. Bowling is one of those equal opportunity sports that doesn’t depend just on size or speed, but accuracy and consistency. Lots of our students take part and enjoy the activity.

I usually make the post office run on Saturdays, and while sorting the mail came across a letter to one of our brand new students. Figuring she might be just a little homesick and appreciate it sooner rather than later, I delivered it to Matthias Home (6th– 8th grade girls) and got invited to stay for supper. It was simple weekend fare, chili dogs and fruit. Sometimes houseparents apologize when I stop by and the meal isn’t fancy. But I’m reminded of Dorothy Day’s line,

Life is a banquet, even with crumbs, where there is a community of love.

We sat and talked a while until it was time for them to walk downtown to go to the movies.

Today we celebrated mass of the Epiphany. Students from Peggy’s 4th grade class dressed as shepherds, kings, angels and the holy family and acted out the holy night and season. I chuckled when the three wise men were pointing to the east and I saw fingers pointing in three different directions. Somehow they managed to find their way to Bethlehem! In my homily I urged them not to be afraid to let their light shine, and develop their God-given talents and abilities. While the Christmas season may be ending, it’s important for us to have that spirit of generosity and good will throughout the year and for a lifetime.

Kass and the gift she received this year for Christmas.
Kass and the gift she received this year for Christmas.

If Advent is a season of waiting with patient expectation, today was the day of fulfilled expectations for our students. Today the students opened up Christmas presents in each of the homes. After church, I joined the Dennis Home (1st-3rd grade girls) for brunch and helped pass out the brightly wrapped packages. The big hit our donors sent for the girls were Pillow Pets – nighttime pillows shaped like an elephant, frog, butterfly or giraffe. Those were a nice complement to the soft fleece blankets that houseparent, Alice sewed for each of the girls. You can watch a video and read about this fun day on St. Joseph’s Indian School’s website. 

I stopped in at each of our  18 homes for a few minutes, which added up to the entire afternoon. In the Raphael (1st-3rd grade boys) home, houseparent Peter had a screwdriver in hand, surrounded by four boys vying for his help with “some assembly required.” The Summerlee (4th-5th grade girls) Home was fascinated by the furry battery operated ZuZu Pets buzzing around a track. The Perky boys (4th-5th grade) had radio controlled trucks zipping around furniture and underneath the kitchen table.

Lots of excitement and smiles and happy memories.

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.

3 thoughts on “Smiles and happy memories from our Lakota youth”

  1. I really enjoyed this article…especially the paragraph near the middle that begins with “Today”. The sentence about retaining the Spirit not just at Christmas but throughout the year, and one’s lifetime, was a big hit with me. I ‘m glad I read the article because such thoughts give the reader pause to reflect about important things that would otherwise pass us by in this rapidly moving world that we all live in. Thank you (the author) for reminding me about what’s really important in this life. I also enjoyed hearing about the children’s satisfaction with their gifts. It helps keep me up to date concerning what’s important to thecurrent “younger generation”. I learn things this way … which reflects the concept of Lifelong Learning, doesn’t it? My prayer for the children is that they will appreciate what they’ve received moreso than I did at their age. I imagine that they did.

  2. I do not believe that it was biblically correct for me to capitalize the word “spirit” in my above post. I believe that the author’s use of the lower case is the proper use of the case in this case. Pardon the pun. Can someone (author perhaps) help me out here and perhaps, in so doing, provide a useful Bible lesson for the children as well as for readers of the postings. Thank you.

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