St. Joseph’s 2020 Year in Review

2020 was the year of the “new normal.”

Despite the muddy circumstances 2020 brought upon the world, you helped bring so much joy to approximately 200 Lakota (Sioux) boys and girls. Surely we faced challenges, but so many other successes took place.

Take a look as we highlight some of the great things you helped make possible at St. Joseph’s Indian School during 2020 …

January 2020

  • Students participated in the Lakota Nation Invitational and participated in archery, the Lakota Language Bowl and the Knowledge Bowl categories.
  • Students celebrated Catholic Schools Week.
  • St. Joseph’s provided assistance to families on reservations during cold weather.
St. Joseph's boys competing at Dakota Oyate Challenge
St. Joseph’s boys competing at Dakota Oyate Challenge.

February 2020

  • Joseph’s students went to the Dakota Oyate Challenge (DOC), an annual archery event. A total of 18 students in grades fourth-12th competed.
  • Joseph’s eighth graders traveled to Pierre, SD, to learn about the South Dakota State Legislature and tour the historical capitol building.
Girls Gymnastics team
The 2020 gymnastics team poses for a team photo.

March 2020

  • Third grade students hosted their wax museum — embodying the famous faces of Sally Ride, Martin Luther King, Jr., Amelia Earhart and others.
  • Gymnastics, wrestling and basketball wrapped up for the season.
  • Students left for Spring Break and were unable to return for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

April 2020

  • St. Joseph’s sent numerous truck and trailer loads of supplies to reservation communities due to COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Distance learning took full effect, with classes moving online and homework packets mailed weekly.
  • Prayer services with Fr. Anthony went digital in the hopes of providing comfort to students and their families from afar.
Teachers spent time creating activity and homework packets to send to students.

May 2020

  • Distance learning and mailing of homework packets continued. Teachers and counselors checked in on families through regular phone and video calls.
  • Because many elderly in reservation communities were unable to see their families due to social distancing, St. Joseph’s sent care packages with activities books, hygiene products and homemade masks to a care center on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation.
  • Twenty-three eighth grade students received their completion certificates and two students graduated from high school! However, no formal ceremonies and celebrations were held in-person this month.
  • St. Joseph’s Indian School was awarded the honor of Top-Rated Charity by GreatNonprofits for the fourth year in a row!
Diana and Nick celebrated their successful graduation of high school!

June 2020

  • Care packages filled with books, toys, games and learning materials were sent to all of our students through the mail or curbside delivery.
  • We implemented 11 food box delivery routes across the state to deliver meat, cheese, eggs, bread, fruits, veggies and more every other week to our students and their families.
  • Rising Eagle Day Camp was sadly canceled due to COVID-19.
  • St. Joseph’s graduating seniors were honored at the local public high school’s rescheduled graduation and feathering ceremonies.
St. Joseph’s Indian School donated 1,000 books to the Wagner Indian Health Services to distribute during their health fair. It was one of several stops the Bookmobile made this summer.

July 2020

  • This month, houseparents mailed books home to students.
  • The Bookmobile outreach program safely delivered thousands of books to  reservation communities.
Families and students said goodbye as they unloaded their belongings for volunteers to help move into their campus homes.

August 2020

  • The new 2019-20 school year began.
  • Even more CDC guidelines were strictly enforced to keep children and staff as safe as possible.
Students danced at a powwow that was livestreamed from campus for parents and donors to enjoy from home.

September 2020

  • We hosted our 44th Annual Powwow from a distance, as COVID-19 kept our wonderful donors, parents and the public from attending this year.
Even our horses got into costume! Here’s Violet as a skeleton.

October 2020

  • Students celebrated Native American Day by focusing on their traditions, heritage and stories.
  • The school celebrated Red Ribbon Week by decorating campus trees with red ribbons.
  • Students collected candy in a Halloween parade in place of traditional trick-or-treating to maintain more social distance. 
Students wrote the names of loved ones who have passed away on red fabric to honor them.

November 2020

  • Students spent the month celebrating Native American Heritage Month. Although heavily focused upon throughout the year, classes took even more time focusing on the Lakota culture all month long.
  • Students celebrated All Souls Day by remembering loved ones who have passed on by making prayer ties and displaying them in Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel. We are hopeful the seventh grade cultural trip will take place May 2021 so the prayer ties may be taken with and used during an inípisweat — ceremony.
  • Eighth grade students participated in a Buffalo Hunt. 
Some students made homemade garland with popcorn and string during the Christmas season.

December 2020

  • Students gifted the presents they had picked-out for their siblings, parents/guardians and grandparents from our campus Christmas Store. 
  • Students grades 2-8 returned from winter break and began the second semester in an eLearning/quarantine setting.

It was a year of changes and challenges — perhaps a year filled with many, many winds from the North. But, as the Lakota believe as part of the traditional Four Directions, if someone has the ability to face these winds like the buffalo with its head into the storm, they have learned patience and endurance. Generally, this direction stands for hardships and discomfort. Therefore, North represents the trials people must endure and the cleansing they must undergo.

Perhaps you also faced harsh North winds. We pray 2021 is a year of cleansing for you, your loved ones and everyone around the world.

If you would like to see more updates about the great things happening at our school, follow us on Facebook by going to!

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.

8 thoughts on “St. Joseph’s 2020 Year in Review”

  1. You do so many wonderful things for with your students and their families and I am so proud to be part of your Tiyospaye. Congratulations on adapting to the pandemic “new normal “ in so many creative practical ways. So proud of you all…

  2. I am so thrilled to be a donor to this wonderful school. Resources have been limited and I hope to do more in the future. I love these children and what you do for them. Their culture is so important.

  3. Thank you & God be with St. Joseph’s school for all you do there. I am proud to say I support the school and the children there. Again Philamayaye !!!!!

  4. May Almighty GOD bless you all. always, with HIS abundant love for your sacrifice, hard work & care giving to so many native Americans, especially the children’

  5. Thank you for sharing these events with us. We will always remember the events of 2020 and how we were challenged. Truly, God must have miraculously stretched your resources to make it all possible. Thanks be to God for those who helped make it all possible.

  6. These pictures are so priceless! The work was truly a service from the Lord to bless the St Joseph students, staff and their families during 2020. I am very thankful to be sponsoring such an important organization as this, very close to my heart. I was so sad I missed the Pow Wow this year, both in person and online, but I hope and pray to be a part of it in 2021. Keep up the good work and the Lord will continue to bless you.

  7. How wonderful to receive the “year in review” of what’s happened at St. Joseph’s! I feel a true connection the the kids and the school because of Shawn, who always continues to remain in contact with me. I am so grateful!

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