Listening to our Native American families

A lot of visitors stayed over and joined us for our regular Sunday mass. Some of our students wore their dance regalia and led the opening procession down the aisle, and later presented the gifts of bread and wine. After communion, our drum group sang a “pilamaya thank you” song, addressed to God, in appreciation of our donors who make our programs possible.

I stayed around after mass and answered final questions from folks before they hit the road to all parts of the country. I counted people from at least 25 different states who made the pilgrimage to Chamberlain to share these joyful days with us.

Our Parents Advisory Committee spent all day with us discussing a host of issues. We’ve been working with a group called Child Trends to survey students and parents, and reviewed their findings via a webinar. What the students want (fewer rules and fewer people watching over them) are some of the things parents are most comforted by with the St. Joseph programs. Still, we don’t want to keep doing things like we’ve always done them without reviewing to see if they are still accomplishing what we hoped they would. Our phone rules and children’s ability to call home haven’t kept in touch with cell phone and computer/Skype technology and are in need of serious revision. We reviewed some of our admissions criteria, and the interview questions that Family Service Counselors ask families on their initial visits. For safety we have lots of security cameras around campus, and we informed the parents how those are used.

We also made time to tour the new alumni/historical center that is part of the Akta Lakota Museum addition. While that is nearing completion, they seemed more enthralled by the gutted old grocery store that is in the process of becoming our expanded thrift store.

Powwow preparation

Though our Lakota students have only been back a few days, powwow preparation has begun in earnest. Both the boys (grass, traditional and fancy) and girls (fancy shawl, jingle dress and traditional) have been busy learning to dance. Once they decide on the style they will focus on, LaRayne (our Native American Studies teacher) and a few helpers will match the many children who don’t have their own regalia with dance attire.

Besides the dancers, Mark, our Rec Center Specialist called an organizational meeting to gather all the drummers and singers. A strong group of eighth grade singers graduated last year and moved up to high school. But, there has been good interest in the next grades of boys who want to step up and sing out and learn the traditional songs.  As Mark reviewed their commitment and responsibilities, he reminded them that in learning how to respect the drum, they will also learn to respect and care for one another. Eleven singers signed up, as well as five girls who will learn the songs and circle around the drummers to support them.

Our powwow is hours away

After school I noticed that all our student powwow dancers were streaming toward the field. They were gathered to take a group picture, for it seems impossible to get everyone together in one spot once the dancing begins. Excitement is definitely building as the big day is just hours away.

Our drum group was in the school music room practicing as well. They have learned a few new songs and besides the Flag Song and Honor Song, they will play for some of the dancing as well. They’re nervous because the other drum groups are seasoned singers, but what they lack in experience, I know they’ll make up in enthusiasm.