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.

5th graders learn about their own Native American culture

Ironically, the 5th graders are assigned a unit about People of the Plains as a part of their curriculum.  This always leaves me scratching my head because my class, Native American Studies, is pretty much all about the People of the Plains.  From the time the kids begin in first grade and go on up to eighth grade, they will have learned many concepts about our beautiful Lakota (Sioux) culture.

Native American children learning about their culture.
The kids were so interested in their Lakota (Sioux) culture.

To begin, I asked the students to make a KWL chart.  This is a chart that lists what you know (K), what you want to know (W) and lastly, what you learned (L).  Thanks to this process, I was able to tailor the lessons so I didn’t teach something they already knew about. I was able to directly show and discuss actual artifacts from our classroom and the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center on campus.

Some questions they had were about tools, weapons, clothes, food, games, tasks, horses, dogs, child rearing, medicine men, moons and medicines.  We learned from the internet, class discussions and by viewing and touching many items at the museum.  Visiting the museum was their favorite activity.  They touched bones that were used for painting, cutting, sewing, scraping and working.  They also learned how paint was made, how items were decorated with porcupine quills, eagle feathers and buffalo parts that were used for practical uses. For example, the buffalo bladder was used as a water carrier, the skin became blankets and the tail was used as a fly swatter.

After the unit was finished, I reflected on how I am really thankful to have this unit.  It gives the kids a chance to ask questions about what they want to know and it gives me an opportunity to teach and talk about some different, awesome avenues of our Lakota culture.

Fr. Steve’s updates

Two students finished degrees in Native American Studies, which is so needed to pass on the culture and values. One woman is finishing her degree as an industrial engineer and will hopefully inspire others to follow her footsteps.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Letters have gotten stacked up over these past weeks. I answer what I can and then feel more behind with the day’s new batch.

But, today I wrote cards to the college students we’ve been helping with scholarship monies who graduate this year.

Two students finished degrees in Native American Studies, which is so needed to pass on the culture and values. One woman is finishing her degree as an industrial engineer and will hopefully inspire others to follow her footsteps.

Another went back to college after 30 years of working and raising a family … showing it’s never too late to pursue an education and fulfill your dreams.

I’m glad St. Joseph’s is able to help such students find the means to attend college.

The end of the school year is also a time of transitions. Brenda, who has worked as a houseparent for 19 years, will retire when school is out. Her co-workers gathered for lunch at the Marina, and I was able to join them. Brenda has so many memories and stories of the kids in all those years, and I laughed as she reminisced.

Another goodbye was to Jan, who is retiring from the Title program. Those teachers are actually employees of the Chamberlain School district, but I always say that their heart belongs to St. Joseph’s. Jan and all the Title teachers show wonderful care for our students and help those most in need of individualized attention.

I stopped to videotape a message for our high school seniors who graduate from the Chamberlain program in just two weeks. They were sixth graders when I started here, and I have lots of memories as I’ve seen them grow up.

Then, it was on to the chapel to take the official graduation photo for the newspaper. Wow – so many milestones are fast approaching!

Wow – so many milestones are fast approaching!