Saturday morning we headed west, stopping at the Vore Buffalo Jump near the state line and then into Wyoming. Of course, we had to stop and take pictures and walk across the border so that everyone now can say they “walked from South Dakota to Wyoming!”
It’s a scenic drive to Devil’s Tower National Monument. Before starting our hikes we enjoyed the introduction to the area from the ranger. The group divided and had a choice of either a 1 ½ or a 3 ½ mile hike around the base of the Tower. The hikes and the views were both invigorating. Besides the prairie dog towns, the other wildlife we saw was a rattlesnake! Even though it was a baby one – and we viewed it from a distance – it added excitement to the day.
We attended mass that evening at St. Joseph’s in Spearfish, South Dakota. The group was given a warm welcome during announcements, and we were surprised to discover that the priest there is an uncle to one of our staff members. Then it was all-you-can-eat at the Pizza Ranch, a stop at the local mall, and enjoying the hotel pool before bedtime.
We began our Sunday with a visit to the impressive Crazy Horse Memorial, hearing the story of its origination, touring the museum, and gawking at the massiveness of the memorial. Afterwards we traveled back into the town of Custer for a brunch that included plate-sized pancakes! However, one of the German exchange students inadvertently ordered from the kiddy menu – the biggest member of our group had the smallest meal, which made for some good laughs!
After filling our stomachs we were ready to head back into Custer State Park to begin our wildlife quest. We had driven several miles on the Wildlife Loop and had only seen one pronghorn. The leaders were beginning to get worried that all the animals were in hiding, but then we came around a curve to be greeted by a herd of approximately 250 head of buffalo spread out across the hills! Some were even close to the road which made for some great photos. Before leaving the park we saw several groups of pronghorn antelope and two deer! It was a great way to wrap our visit to the Black Hills.
Of course, no visit to western South Dakota would be complete without a stop at Wall Drug! We had a chance to shop for souvenirs, have dinner and buy some of their famous homemade donuts before heading back to Chamberlain. We had an incredible 770 mile adventure—one that made great memories for each of the students.
Greetings to all! My name is Mike and I am a houseparent in the William Home here at St. Joseph’s Indian School. We are home to ten 4th and 5th grade girls. This is my ninth year in the William Home. This has been a very quick and exciting start to our school year. We have been very active and have had some very fun moments here at St. Joseph’s. We took the girls to Custer, South Dakota in September and went to the Buffalo Round-up in Custer State Park as well as taking in Crazy Horse Monument. The laser light show at Crazy Horse was awesome and the tour of the facility is very educational for our Native American youth. The round-up is an experience as almost 15,000 people sit on the hills and wait for the cowboys to bring the tatanka – buffalo to the corrals!
Things have really picked up lately. We had five of our girls make the first quarter honor roll and we are very proud of them. The girls are involved in dancing dolls with the Chamberlain community and have their performance in December and our 5th graders are in band. I also have the pleasure to help coach our 4th and 5th grade girls basketball team which is always an enjoyable time of the year. We have played four games so far and have five left before Christmas break. It’s a good fit for me since this time of year in my off time I referee college basketball and will soon start working high school games for the 27th year.
It is hard to believe that we are on the door of Thanksgiving break and Christmas is right around the corner. We would love to have you stop and see the great things St. Josephs has to offer. Hope you have a blessed and safe holiday season!!
Our Akta Lakota Museum and Historical Alumni Center committee met much of today, making some decisions that keep edging our plans closer to the final stages. Kate, while doing research during the powwow, interviewed several of our returning alumni and we learned many things about “the old days” that are worth remembering and passing along. As alumni know we are gathering data and trying to tell the story of what life has been like at St. Joseph’s Indian School during different eras, many are eager to fill in the details about their experiences.
I spent time with a coloring book and crayons for the first time in ages. Dennis home (1st-3rd grade girls) was having some low-key play time between their Social Skills class and supper, and the houseparents passed out the books. I sat on the couch and shared a box of crayons with Samantha and Pearl. With my under developed artistic skills I’ve not often get complements, but 2nd grader DeOnna praised me for doing such a good job of staying with the lines!
The Home was at the Buffalo Roundup at Custer State Park on Monday, and the girls were excited to tell me about their adventures there. Still, with all the magnificent wildlife, natural beauty and other experiences, the universally agreed upon best part of the trip was the chocolate fountain when they ate supper at the Golden Coral. As they get older and look back, I think the buffalo will eventually be a stronger memory than the chocolate!