St. Joseph’s Indian School Students Demonstrate Powwow Dances at American Island Days

Hot sun and hotrods were the recipe for this year’s American Island Days in Chamberlain, S.D, on August 20, 2022.

Adding some flair and beauty to the afternoon, eleven St. Joseph’s Indian School dancers and eight drummers enjoyed displaying the powwow dance styles of their cultural heritage to festival-goers. The school’s drum group, Pahá Makȟásaŋ Lowáŋpi (the Chalk Hills Singers), provided the heartbeat of the people at the event.

Asked to participate in the festival for the second time this year, the students freely shared their enthusiasm about the day.

Marybella said, “I felt very happy that people were enjoying our culture. I had a lot of fun, and it made my heart happy.”

While, Christine said dancing for American Island Days made her feel like she belonged. Blaze added that dancing for a crowd made him dance harder and that sitting at the drum again “brings me into a cool place.” Charges , also a drummer, said, “In all, I feel proud to be at the drum.”

Native American Studies Lead LaRayne said sharing a part of our powwow celebration with the community is something the students are always excited, yet nervous, to do.

“It feels good to share part of our mission with the community. It was especially nice to have the drum with us this year. The drum brings completeness to the dance performance because it is the heartbeat of the nation,” said LaRayne.

Locals know much of the story of the half-mile-wide by two-mile-long American Island that was completely submerged in 1953 with the completion of Fort Randall Dam. Before that, it enjoyed renown as a popular camping spot for Boy and Girl Scouts and as a tourist destination. There was a pool, a bandshell and WPA sculptures, some of which still stand after relocation to Chamberlain’s Main Street.

What many may not know is that Brulé Lakota Leader Čhaŋté Wicuwa, also known as Useful Heart, lived on the island until 1889, when Congress divided the Great Sioux Reservation into smaller separate reservations. For centuries before that, Native Americans had enjoyed the island. To join the celebration of the island and remember its deep cultural roots was an experience that St. Joseph’s Indian School students treasured.

If you missed the dancing or would like to enjoy more, you’re invited to attend the school’s first public powwow since going virtual in 2019. The 46th annual wačhípi (powwow) is Saturday, September 17, with Grand Entry beginning at noon. It is free and open to the public with handicap accessibility.

For more information and a complete event schedule, please contact St. Joseph’s Indian School at 605-234-3313 or visit If you cannot attend in-person, follow postings and live updates virtually with St. Joseph’s Indian School on Facebook at

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.

One thought on “St. Joseph’s Indian School Students Demonstrate Powwow Dances at American Island Days”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *