Guest Blogger: Claire

Three Native American girls showing off their beautiful regalia.
Looking great girls! Juliana, Paite and Grace in their beautiful powwow regalia.

In honor of my Dad’s 70th birthday (Sunday), I am dedicating three sets of regalia I have sewn for St. Joseph’s powwow.  I think this is a fitting tribute.  My Dad’s grandfather was born on the Yankton Indian reservation here in South Dakota, before moving to Michigan in the early 1900’s.

Grandpa kept his heritage a secret, probably because of the prejudices of that period. So many of the great things about my dad are things he learned from his grandpa, and these are things he passed on to my brothers—skills in carpentry, camping, fixing things and telling stories.  Sadly, Dad didn’t learn about his Nakota traditions growing up, so this wasn’t something he was able to share with us kids.  This makes me sad when I think about it.

Later in life, Dad started getting curious about his grandfather’s history, and started learning about Native American traditions and culture.  I think this influenced my decision to work at St. Joseph’s Indian School and to participate in the seventh grade Cultural Trip for the past two years.  I want today’s kids to know and be proud of their culture.

My family history is important to me.  My mother’s family has a proud tradition of sewing.  Busha (my great grandma) used to sew vestments for the parish priest, and I learned to sew on her treadle machine.  I feel closest to my mom and Grammy when I am sewing.  When I make regalia, I feel like I am honoring both of my great-grandmas — my Polish one and my Nakota one.

I am grateful to the donors and supporters of St. Joseph’s Indian School, who make things like powwow, our cultural trip and ceremony possible.  In this season of giving, sometimes the gift of memories and pride are the most lasting of all. Thanks again, Claire!


Earning privileges

Temperatures have dipped down into the low teens the past couple of days as winter reminded us it’s just around the corner. I bundled up good and walked down to chapel for our regular morning mass. When I came out of chapel, the high school students were walking toward the bus to pick them up. A few of our older students who have driver’s licenses and good grades have earned driving privileges, and we have a few high mileage cars in the fleet they can take to school, sports and/or play practices.  Errol has earned that privilege, but today he also learned about responsibility. He had to come out early to scrape the ice off the windshield and get the car defrosted.

Another student was waiting for me by my office. All those going out for basketball have to sell a number of gift certificate packs to restaurants and businesses in town to help pay for their equipment. Kyle got my money, then later I was asked by two other ball players. Our staff tries to be generous and help students out with such purchases, but there are only so many coupons and magazine subscriptions you can buy.

Guest Blogger: Julie H.

Greetings friends of St. Joseph’s Indian School!  I hope the Feast of All Souls Day finds  you doing well!

Things here on St. Joseph’s campus are going well!  It is hard to believe we have finished our first quarter of school and are already a couple of weeks into the second quarter.  My, how times flies!  The students are working hard to keep their grades up and do well in school.

Happy Halloween from everyone at St. Joseph's Indian School!
Happy Halloween from everyone at St. Joseph’s Indian School!

Halloween was a great hit.  Most of the kids dressed up in costumes and there were some great costumes!  The students were able to trick-or-treat here on campus and then take part in a costume contest.  Some of the homes also went into Chamberlain to trick-or-treat as well.  All of the students I have talked to say they really enjoyed Halloween!

With Halloween past us now, the next big events on the campus of St. Joseph’s Indian School are girls basketball, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We haven’t seen much snow here yet, so I wonder if we will have a white Christmas this year!

Our girls’ basketball seasons kicks off on Monday, November 5.  The girls are very excited to begin their season.  The girls are working hard in practice and learning all they can in the short time they have before their games begin.  Basketball season is always a busy time as all of the games take place between early November and Christmas Break.  With as fast as this school year is going, both Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here before we know it!

As we move closer to Thanksgiving, I would like to thank each and every one of you for all of the support you give to St. Joseph’s Indian School.  Please know that you are remembered in our prayers!

Julie H.
Family Service Counselor

Guest Bloggers: Mike and April

The Carola Home won the high school trophy for with least missing assignments!!
The Carola Home won the high school trophy for with least missing assignments!!

Working hard and having fun!

Hello again from the Carola Home! A new year has begun and our boys are doing a wonderful job with all they have to do. This year we have four Juniors and three Freshman boys in our home. They have worked hard with school work, homework, tutoring, football, other activities and home responsibilities.

First quarter we had five boys make the honor roll and two who were just short of the honor roll, giving our home a GPA of 3.32. Besides studying hard, part of their success is not getting behind in their school work and not having many missing assignments.

The boys had a great time at Wild Water West!
The boys had a great time at Wild Water West!

With all the hard work they put in so far, they really enjoy having some downtime. With donors helping provided for St. Joseph’s Indian School, each home has a budget that they go by. Part of this budget goes to home trips. Home trips are a great time to relax and have fun and build relationships. At the beginning of the year, our home went to LifeLight Music Festival and Wild Water West. They had a great time camping and enjoying some wonderful music, go carts, going down the water slides and swimming in the wave pool.

With funds for a trip already spent, the boys had to come up with a way to make money. Our boys decided to do a car wash to raise funds for another home trip.

The car wash was a great success.
The car wash was a great success.

The boys used a no school day for the car wash. They asked for a freewill donation to support their home trip. They washed many cars and they spent all day with such a positive attitude and worked very hard. They made enough money for the trip – hiking at Harney Peak, shopping at the Rushmore Mall, and dinner and movies in Rapid City.

The boys are always saying “thanks for dinner” and while we were out at the restaurant they said, “Thanks for dinner.” We reminded them that they earned this themselves and thanked them for dinner.

They were very proud and so were we. They also realized how working hard can pay off.

Big smiles from the Carola Home.
Big smiles from the Carola Home.

Guest Blogger: Claire

Native American boys having fun in the sun!
Having fun in the sun!

The high school kids had a long Labor Day weekend, and all of the homes planned special trips for the occasion. The Giles Home (freshmen boys) decided that they wanted to camp out at the Lifelight concert in Sioux Falls.  Lifelight is a free Christian music festival that attracts over 300,000 people every year.  There are five stages, merchandise booths, concessions and all sorts of activities going on throughout the weekend.  Plus there is a large area set aside for people who want to tent camp.

Trips like these are one of the ways we can build Circle of Courage values (Independence, Mastery, Belonging and Generosity) while disguising it as “just having fun.”  It’s kind of like drowning broccoli in cheese sauce so that they don’t realize it’s good for them. 🙂

The Giles boys are good at Belonging.  They get along well together and look out for each other.  Unless of course, someone farts in the tent.  Then it is every man for himself.  They also warned each other not to trip over the … cord for the rain fly.  Usually after someone face planted on the ground, but still.

They are surprisingly Generous.  We saw a man holding a, “Will work for food” sign by the side of the road.  They gathered together some of their favorite snacks, and Isaiah hopped off the mini-bus to deliver them.  The boys’ favorite part was when I accidentally started the bus back up while Isaiah was changing seats, and he went bouncing down the aisle.  Oops.

Independence skills like checking in on time are very important, especially in a crowded, several-acre venue.  Most of the boys did a great job coming back to the campsite every hour and checking in with a houseparent before going back out to catch a show, play some hoops, listen to a band or check out the cute girls.  What, huh?  Flirting at a Christian festival?  Ohhhh yeah.  All those “Free Hug” signs are just irresistible.  Sadly, one boy did get “lost.”  Finding a missing kid among 100,000 visitors is quite a challenge.  After calling out a search party for him, we found him happily hanging out with another  SJIS home.  Phew!  Apparently, he had taken on more responsibility than he could manage, so his freedoms were curtailed for the evening.

They guys had lots of opportunities to demonstrate Mastery, from putting up/striking tents, to working the camping lanterns, to making s’mores on the camp stove.  We forgot sticks, but they came up with the brilliant idea of using a (clean) metal tent-peg.  Perfect!  Another  challenge for them was visiting the cathedral in Sioux Falls for Mass.  The impressive Romanesque architecture, incense, Latin inscriptions and chanted prayers are very different from the Mass for Children that they celebrate at Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel on St. Joseph’s campus.  They followed along pretty well, just like they would at home, only with a bit more looking around.

“This is cool.”

All around, it was a good Labor Day weekend.  It felt good to get back to the Giles Home and into the air conditioning.  And showers.  And real beds.  The boys are already talking about plans for our next home trip, which we will take next semester.  They are thinking skiing. (I might as well start practicing to use crutches now.)

Thank you again for your generosity, which makes trips like these possible.  I hope to see some of you at our powwow, which is coming up in a few weeks!


High School Houseparent

New teachers, scholarships and fall sports

I met our two newest staff who rounded out our teaching roster. I heard sixth grader Jacquelyn playing the piano in the music room, and followed the melody until I met Tanya, our part-time music teacher. She comes each Tuesday and has 22 students signed up for various lessons. I’m looking forward to a student recital sometime down the road.

David is our new Native American Cultural associate. Besides strong Lakota language skills he knows lots about ceremony and history. He wants to get some Lakota Hand Game teams started and try their skill against other schools.

While some paperwork is tedious, I found great meaning in the signatures I put to paper today. I signed off on the alumni college scholarships we are awarding this semester.

The list of the programs our college and vocational tech students are enrolled in is quite varied:

  • Nursing/ Medical Assistant
  • Graphic Design
  • Pharmacy
  • Automotive Technology
  • Cosmetology
  • Business Administration and Management
  • Chemical Dependency Counselor
  • Early Childhood
  • Health Information Management
  • Transpiration Technology
  • Health & PE
  • Lakota Studies
  • Human Services
  • Electrical Construction

We keep in touch with our alumni, offering encouragement to hang in there and pursue a meaningful career.

Fall sports practices are in full swing. The cross-country runners and going over hill and dale. We see then training on the hill that runs by our house. The volleyball players are learning to set, spike and serve. The football players are hitting blocking dummies, and dreaming of a quarterback sack. Just practices for now, but competitive games will soon begin and we’ll hope the practice and training pay off.

Struggles and dreams

I traveled to Lower Brule to join my fellow SCJs for lunch. I wanted to meet the two Sisters of Christian Charity, Anne Theresa and Marie Pauline, who just joined the pastoral team. Both have a lot of teaching and school administration experience. They are looking forward to a new ministry of focusing on the pastoral needs of the people on the Reservation.

Having done Indian reservation work myself for many years, I offered them two pieces of advice.

  1. Be patient (with yourself and others)
  2. Go visit (in people’s homes and in the community, so you understand both the struggles and the dreams)

Before I came home, I stopped at the Tribal Hall, and at the local convenience store/gas station. I ran into lots of St. Joseph’s alumni and families and caught up about how life is going now. When you live in a small town, a trip to the post office or store can take a couple of hours as you simply stop and pay attention to the people you know and meet along the way.

I was lazy, and had the high school students wash my car, but it was for a good cause. They had no classes today, and decided to have a fundraiser for trip next month to the Sioux Falls Arts Festival. They took lots of dirt, grime and bugs off many vehicles and raised $260.

When there are free days from school, our transition specialist will often invite groups on to campus to speak to our students about future plans. The National Guard came to our campus and spoke to five of our students who are considering become part of that service after they finish high school.

Guest Blogger: Craig

St. Joseph's Indian Shcool's 6th grade class trip to the Badlands.
Smile if you loved the Badlands!

Hello, my name is Craig, St. Joseph’s Indian School’s sixth grade teacher.

The sixth grade took its annual trip to the Badlands. We took the entire class with the assistance of Linea, Jennie, Fr. Steve, Vajean and myself. It was a little cloudy and cool, but the kids were excited – many had never been to the Badlands before.

We stopped at the visitors’ center first and saw a movie about the formation of the Badlands and its surprisingly vast variety of wildlife. We toured the hands-on museum and then headed out to explore. The high-points of the day were whenever the kids just got to explore and hike. I think they could have done that the whole day! We also had a tasty lunch and the park café: burgers and fries for energy.

We all got back safe and tired, but the trip was a great success!

Basketball crazy boys

Becky, who works in accounting and I went to Brule County Abstract this afternoon to close on a building downtown that we purchased and pick up the keys. The old grocery store on Main Street has been vacant for a couple of years and it will give us a lot of room to expand our thrift store.

Since it is just a block away from the post office, it will also make it easier to handle the boxes and packages that people send us each day.  The building needs a good cleaning and then quite a bit of work, but our maintenance staff is up for the challenge. When we went to check inside the store we invited Chantelle, who manages the current thrift store to go with us. She and Becky have done a lot of work to get the plans and proposal ready and were as excited as two St. Joseph’s kids at the Christmas Store.

After shooting a few baskets with the Raphael Home (1st – 3rd grade boys) I joined them for supper. The boys are basketball crazy, especially with the NBA playoffs in full swing. I remember third grade as the time I got so excited about baseball and basketball cards. These boys are just at the age where all of a sudden sports becomes such a central part of their life. They vied for my attention to tell me about their favorite teams and players.  They asked me all kinds of sports questions, like which stars I had actually seen play. When they asked about who was champion the most times, I turned on my cell phone and pulled up a list off the internet. Then they  crowded around and learned some of the history of the sport, cheering each time their team was listed.