St. Joseph’s Students Remember the Missing and Murdered and Fight for Change

St. Joseph’s Indian School held a Missing and Murder Indigenous Women event for students on campus.

There was a heaviness in the air as St. Joseph’s Indian School students dipped their hands in red paint and placed them precisely on their faces — the mark that symbolizes the Indigenous women and relatives who are missing or murdered.

You see, there is a crisis at hand for Native American men, women and families, and it’s recognized by a movement called Missing and Murder Indigenous Women.

It is a movement that hits home for many across South Dakota … and students at St. Joseph’s Indian School. As of March 8, 2022, there were 103 people missing in South Dakota. Of those 103, Indigenous people made up 62%, despite being only 8.7% of the state’s population. To add to it, Indigenous women face high rates of sexual and physical violence — 46% of Indigenous women having experienced rape, physical violence or stalking.

Azilya, or purification, was performed at the beginning of the event for all in attendance to purify their minds, bodies, hearts and spirits. This is more commonly referred to as smudging.

These realities are in stark contrast to a component of Lakota culture that emphasizes women be treated with honor and respect. Women have traditionally held high status in Lakota culture. One woman in particular was White Buffalo Calf Woman, or Ptesáŋwiŋ as it is said in Lakota. As legend states, she gave the Lakota people seven sacred rights and delivered messages.

It’s those messages that LaRayne, St. Joseph’s Native Studies lead, spoke about during St. Joseph’s MMIW event held among the trees and grasses of Wisdom Circle at the school on May 6.

“She said to the women, ‘You are the lifeline. The life givers.’ and are to be honored. She told the men to, ‘Treat women like they are your sisters — treat them with a good heart and mind.’”

St. Joseph’s drum group, the Chalk Hills Singers, performed a song on the Lakota drum.

It is a message that sounds so simple in nature — do unto others as you would do unto yourself. But, the ways of the past become muddled by the troubles of today. It’s why the mission of St. Joseph’s grows more important and necessary every day.

After a prayer and words from other teachers, the group of students and staff held hands in unity. They then danced a round dance, also known as the circle dance, which is a dance performed with a group of people standing in a circle and stepping to the beat of the Lakota drum.

Hand in hand, students and staff danced in a circle to the beat of the Lakota drum. A few of the female students wore their ribbons skirts

But before they departed, LaRayne emphasized the need for further conversations, in order to mend the broken Sacred Hoop.

“No matter what color, age, religion you are — have conversations with one another. Love one another,” she said. “We must go back to those basic teachings and then our hearts and minds will be strong.”

Learn about how St. Joseph’s is connecting students with their Lakota (Sioux) culture at www.stjo.org/culture.

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.

4 thoughts on “St. Joseph’s Students Remember the Missing and Murdered and Fight for Change”

  1. Lakota culture teaching that women be treated with honor and respect is something that should be taught in all societies. Our priest has mentioned in his homilies more than once that salvation comes from “the woman.” As Catholics, this is why we honor Jesus’ mother, Mary.

  2. This saddens me beautiful women beinging taken away by the hand of evil .I’m sending prayers for healing and safety for all women!✝️

  3. I am from the south. From a very young age we were taught to put women on a pedestal. We were taught proper respect for our elders. We were taught respect for ourselves. To respect the land was second nature to us. What is happening in our world? A large portion of men are not true honorable men anymore! My prayers are with the Lakota women.

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