St. Joseph’s Names Kingfisher as Distinguished Alumnus

Dr. Billie Kingfisher (second from right) stands beside two St. Joseph’s eighth grade graduates and President Mike Tyrell as he accepts the Distinguished Alumnus Award.

St. Joseph’s Indian School is pleased to announce Dr. Billie Kingfisher, Jr. has received the 2019 Distinguished Alumnus Award. Billie attended St. Joseph’s from 1976 – 1982, graduating with the eighth grade class of 1982. He is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

“I met Billie when he first came to St. Joseph’s 1976,” said Andy Lepkowski, St. Joseph’s Alumni Liaison. “Those of us who worked with Billie always thought he would further his education – he did so well in school. He was always a hard worker and joy to be around. It’s wonderful to have him back on campus as our Distinguished Alumnus award winner.”

After high school, Billie joined the military. He proudly served in the prestigious 82nd Airborne Division and with the 3rd Infantry Regiment in the United States Army.

After more than six years in the military, Billie went to college, continuing his education at the University of South Dakota, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Native American History. In 2016, he completed his PhD at Oklahoma State University.

Kingfisher addressed St. Joseph’s eighth grade graduates and their guests, encouraging everyone to rely on three things in life – pride, perseverance and prayer.

“Be proud of who you are,” Billie told the graduates. “You come from good people. Things might not always go the way you want, but persevere. Life is hard. Unfortunately, you will experience hard things but persevere and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Remember also to always be willing to accept help – we can’t do these things alone.

Always pray and be mindful of our traditions – both Catholic and Lakota. All of it will help you. As you go out into the world, don’t think the small things don’t matter. It matters to be a good husband or wife, a good parent. Be a good person in your community. If you love and take care of one another, you can do extraordinary things with your life. Remember you are the future. You will be making decisions for yourself, your families, your tribe. Love, take care of one another, and you can do extraordinary things with your life.”

Today, Dr. Kingfisher is an independent scholar researching Native issues, including the influence of basketball in Native communities and the history of tribes in South Dakota. He and his wife Megan Taylor have three children.

Professional Experiences:

  • Assistant Professor, South Dakota State University – (2016 -2017)
  • Dissertation Fellow, South Dakota State University – (2016 – 2017)
  • Airbourne Hertiage Day Committee Chairman – (2005 – 2011)
  • Law & Drug Coordinator, Santee Sioux Tribal Police Dept. – (2008 – 2009)
  • Test Proctor, Psychological Services Inc. – (2002)
  • Research Assistant, University of South Dakota – (2001)
  • Doorkeeper, U.S. Senate Sergeant-At-Arms – (1999 – 2000)
  • Staff Assistant, U.S. Senator Tom Daschle – (1998 – 1999)


  • 2016 Ph.D. History, Oklahoma State University
  • 2009 M.A. History, University of South Dakota
  • 1997 B.A. History, University of South Dakota

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.

20 thoughts on “St. Joseph’s Names Kingfisher as Distinguished Alumnus”

  1. Reading about Dr.Kingfisher is why I give and will continue to give to St.Joseph’s School. His background is superlative and the address that he gave to the 8th graders shows the respect that he holds for his people. This man is a true leader.

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Maureen! We are so appreciative for your support of our students!

  2. A U.S. Marine salute to Dr. Kingfisher. The track you have taken to get to where you are today is truly impressive. Having said that, I don’t think I have read a better, honest, and laid life on the line, graduation speech than that given to the eighth grade class at St. Joseph’s Indian School. My heartfelt congratulations to you, Sir.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Don! We agree that Dr. Kingfisher did was wonderful job!

  3. Dear Dr. Kingfisher, it is so good of you to go back to St Joe’s and present yourself as a role model to the students there. They need to know that pride, perseverance and prayer are the keys to success in life. They are surrounded by so many poor role models every year and need to see it does pay off to do the right thing and keep working and being the best they can be.

    Congratulations to you for all you have achieved since leaving St. Joe’s.

    Richard Sullivan

  4. I give to st. Joseph school on blind faith. I have never visited the school nor talked in person to anyone connected to the school. I do receive abundant info through the mail from the school which I read thoroughly.
    This report on the attainments of one of it graduates confirms my faith that you are doing a good work. My faith in the school is no longer “blind” but is now fully supported by the facts of this alumnus award, Thanks.
    Ken Peery, Topeka, Kansas

    1. Thank you for those kind words, Kenneth! We are blessed you chose our school to give toward. We do not take it for granted. To see more stories, pictures and videos of our students to reaffirm your faith in our organization, please subscribe to this blog or follow us on Facebook!

  5. Thanks for the report on the alumnus award. His record of attainments confirms the value of the school and affirms my motivation to give to the school.Thanks

  6. In the 1980’s I was Director of Psych Services for a Native American school and mental health center in South Central Los Angeles. At that time it was very difficult to find Native American people with advance degrees.
    It is very gratifying to see how far we have come. Congratulations!

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