St. Joseph’s Indian School Students Experience Traditional Buffalo Harvest

Eighth grade students from St. Joseph’s Indian School took part in a Buffalo Harvest to exercise a very sacred and traditional custom of their Lakota (Sioux) culture.

Recently, St. Joseph’s Indian School eighth-grade students and staff set out through the morning fog for the Crow Creek Department of Wildlife and Natural Resources.

Why? A Buffalo Harvest. 

In a welcoming gesture, the intimidating fog lifted as the group arrived at the destination. Twenty-four students and five adults piled into pickups for a jostling ride across the pasture to the buffalo herd.

Students quickly observed the presence of a white buffalo in one herd, which reemphasized the event’s sacredness for them. White buffalo are wakȟáŋ holy — to the Lakota. White Buffalo Calf Woman is said to have brought the people the seven sacred rites of their spiritual tradition.

The St. Joseph’s eighth-graders were more than observers. Once the buffalo had been harvested, Jaxon offered the buffalo water and grass. Makaia gave it cedar tea. Aurora placed sage in its mouth, and Memphis sprinkled the body with tobacco. Sacred smudge filled the air as students sang a song of thanks to the buffalo for giving its life so that the people may live, offered prayer and sang a prayer song.

The buffalo gives of itself until there is nothing left. They sacrifice their lives for the benefit of the Lakota people.

Memphis said, “I was happy to sprinkle the buffalo with tobacco and sing for it because it gave its life for us.”

Albert “Buc” Fallis, Sr., Wildlife Director, worked with the school to make the event possible.

“Before all else, the day was an experience of thiyóšpaye (extended family),” explained Mission Integration Director Joe Tyrell.

Fallis and field dresser Josh DeHaai of DeHaai Wild Game Processing have connections to St. Joseph’s Indian School and graciously assisted in making plans for the day. Carla Thompson, whose grandchildren attended St. Joseph’s Indian School, came to campus later to help prepare the stomach and intestines for a menudo-like stew that will be prepared for use after inipi ceremonies on campus.

What did students think?

Amelia observed, “It was good to see what our ancestors did to provide for their families at a time when they didn’t have modern ways of cutting and cleaning meat.”

Classmate Gabrielle added, “It felt like I was connected to my culture through singing for the tȟatȟáŋka (buffalo). When the field dresser left parts of the animal on the prairie as an offering to our earth relatives, it helped me to understand a little bit about the old ways.”

Lakota Studies Teacher LaRayne Woster expressed her feelings about the remarkable moment with students.

“Spiritually, our kids experienced culture first-hand under the guidance of staff and elders,” said Woster. She added, “We will have the buffalo hide and skull to represent our day. I want the students to learn from real-life experience and share with all generations out of respect and humility for who we are as a people.”

She added that they understand how the contemporary harvest compares to how it was performed more than a century ago. In the Lakota tradition, every part of the buffalo is used out of respect for the animal’s self-sacrifice. A portion of the meat will be made into jerky for use on the Seventh Grade Cultural Trip. Most of it will be ground for meals in the homes and Dining Hall. Some will be prepared as stew meat to serve to families at spring parent-teacher conferences.

Philámayayethank you — to supporters who make experiences and opportunities like this possible!

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.

7 thoughts on “St. Joseph’s Indian School Students Experience Traditional Buffalo Harvest”

  1. So very proud of st. Joseph’s and all they do for to remember ancestors and customs,, Been a supporter for many years,they are our first people in this land of Mortg Aneruca,,,

  2. I DO feel this is a GREAT experience, that every native should be able and allowed to experience, participate in with parents, brothers and sisters, family. I have been a supporter of for more than 25yrs. and am so Proud to tell others of your school. I wish so much I could have been able to come see and experience some of your customs. I am part cherokee??, but I don’t think a big part. My Mother was related to Pocohaunis, from many years. I think she was cherokee?–Anyway,I love the Indian ways and customs—-I try to be as much of it as possible and live the world of today.–Is Father Steve’ , still living?–I use to ask him for special Prayers, and send Prayers for the school, and all there.–I felt a special connection to our communication, through the clouds and heavenly world. I still feel the connection for all there. I PRAY that GOD and all the SPIRITS of our FATHERS will be good to your families and loved ones. —

    1. Hi Cynthia! Thanks for your comment. Fr. Steve is now Vicar General of the SCJ’s. He and four others are on the General Council. More simply put: he is the vice presidents of the SCJ’s, which is worldwide. Thank you for sharing your memories of your correspondence with him, and also for your support of our mission. We appreciate it!

  3. Some of thee rites were told to me by my grandfather some 70 year ago, He ran a settlers store in The big bend area of S.D. My father was born on a reservation near there in 1900.
    Duane C Grace

  4. I continue to be impressed with all St. Josephs does for the students. I am sure that as they get older they will look at the experiences as something to cherish.

  5. I attended my first St. Josephs Pow Pow this year. It was not only a wonderful educational experience, also a spiratual one for me. St.Josephs School is a special place and I so admire all the staff, house parents and teachers who endeavor to keep the Sioux Culture alive for all all the students.

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