Guest Blogger: Chris B.

Our Student Leadership Committee decorated campus with red ribbons during Red Ribbon Week.
Our Student Leadership Committee decorated campus with red ribbons during Red Ribbon Week.

St. Joseph’s students and staff observed Red Ribbon Week (RRW) during the fourth week in October. Many of our students have been exposed to drug and alcohol abuse, so RRW is an important opportunity to educate and remind students of the negative effects drug and alcohol use can have on their lives.

RRW is the largest drug prevention campaign in our country. It originated because of DEA Special Agent Enrique Camarena – he was kidnapped, tortured and brutally murdered in 1985 by Mexican drug traffickers in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Camarena was on the trail of Mexico’s biggest marijuana and cocaine traffickers, and was close to busting a multi-billion dollar drug pipeline. The first RRW was held in 1988 so young people and communities could pledge to be drug-free and pay tribute to Camarena.

Grace tries to make a basket on the Extreme Sports Challenge during the inflatable party.
Grace tries to make a basket on the Extreme Sports Challenge during the inflatable party.

St. Joseph’s Substance Abuse Prevention Committee plans fun and educational RRW activities every year for our students. We started the week off by having an inflatable party at our rec center which is always a big hit for everyone!

On Monday, students and staff dressed to the theme “Follow Your Dreams, Don’t do Drugs!” by wearing pajamas. It was a cozy, comfy way to start the week!

On Wednesday, we wore shirts with Gandhi’s quote

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

We are planning to wear these shirts again during our Spring Sobriety Walk in April. We ‘elected’ to be drug-free on Friday by wearing red, white and blue.

Third grade students enjoy the school day in their pajamas.
Third grade students enjoy the school day in their pajamas.

All the homes enjoyed competing in drug and alcohol trivia contests over the intercom after school. Prizes were given to the home that called first with the correct answers. The Ambrose Home won the first two contests, but they failed to make a clean sweep when the Raphael Home won the final contest.

We tried something different this year by holding Red Ribbon Relays, which were partially planned and organized by our High School Leadership Committee.

The homes competed against each other in relay races, a potato sack race and a three-legged race, and they used red ribbons as batons. Students painted their faces blue before the races because they pledged to say “NO” to drugs until they are blue in the face!

Everyone enjoyed an ice cream sundae bar after the races, so the evening had a ‘sweet’ ending.

RRW activities are possible because of your generosity. Pilamaya – thank you so much for everything you do to support these amazing children!

Guest Blogger: Julie H.

Hello friends!  I hope today finds you all doing well!  My name is Julie H. and I am a Family Service Counselor at St. Joseph’s Indian School.  Things here are St. Joseph’s are going well!

This week we celebrated Red Ribbon Week and the kids were able to take part in lots of fun activities!  There were activities such as inflatables, ice cream sundaes, relays and theme days.  The kids always enjoy celebrating Red Ribbon Week!

The next celebration we are looking forward to is Halloween.  The kids are all gearing up for the fun and planning their costumes.  The students are able to trick-or-treat on St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus and then we have a Halloween costume contest.  The students always enjoy this time of year!

Our 6-8 grade boys just finished up their football season and the 6-8 grade girls just finished up volleyball.  Now, the girls are gearing up for basketball and have started their practices.  Their first game is November 5 and they are very excited.  The 4th and 5th grade girls have also started basketball practice.  Basketball season is a favorite time of the year for both our boys and girls.  They enjoy the sport immensely, work hard, and show great sportsmanship.  It will be fun to watch them play!

As the weather grows cooler, we are also starting to get ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  What a wonderful time of year for our Lakota students!  It is always a joy to be able to celebrate these holidays with the students!  The students get a nice break for both holidays so they can return home and spend time with their families.

Another great thing happening today is FAST (Families and Schools Together) graduation.  This program brings families to campus to spend quality time with their children.  The program consists of a meal, family oriented activities, a time for parents to meet together and talk, and time for parents to just have fun with their children.  We have graduated over 100 families from this program.  Tonight we graduate seven more families!  This is a great time for the families to come and spend time with their kids and for the staff who work with the students to get a chance to know families a little better as well.

As always, I thank you all for your generous donations of prayer and financial assistance!  Without your help, we could not do the great work we do!  May God’s blessings be poured out on each and every one of you!

Julie H.

Red Ribbon Week

As we were driving back onto St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus from Denver Monday afternoon, we saw a girl in pajamas going into the Benedictine Homes. Laura remarked that she must have spent the day at the health care center. Then we saw the rest of the procession from school … also wearing pajamas!

It was the kick off to Red Ribbon Week – our annual celebration with the message that drugs get in the way of dreams and success, and there are so many fun and healthy alternatives. Monday the students were encouraged to wear pajamas to school – follow your dreams . . . don’t do drugs.

Tuesday, bright red ribbons tied around many trees on campus got everyone’s attention.

I will say no to drugs until I’m blue in the face!
“I will say no to drugs until I’m blue in the face!”

On Wednesday, the entire school had matching shirts, with the inspiring Gandhi quote, “Be the Change You Wish to See in the World.” In the evening the homes gathered for Red Ribbon Relays. The potato sack races were run (or hopped) with plastic garbage bags around Wisdom Circle. The problem with those was that scraping against the pavement started to wear holes in the bags, and by the last leg the kids could put their legs through the holes and run! Playing on the theme of “I will say no to drugs until I’m blue in the face” kids painted their faces blue – some completely like Blue Man Group, others with mustaches or creative artwork, but each unique.

Friday played on the theme of patriotism and the upcoming election – “ I elect to be drug free, by wearing red white and blue.”

This week staff reading group discussed a book of poetry called “Walking the Earth, Touching the Sky.” The collection was published by the students at Red Cloud Indian School. Everyone appreciated the beautiful artwork, the cultural information, and found several lines to be profound and thought provoking.

Robyn, one of our Family Service Counselors, shared that with her book on her office end table, students would frequently pick it up and start leafing through it themselves. They were impressed by how peers articulated in words what they too felt. That led them to open up and talk more about their experiences of grief, hurt, and being misunderstood, so that was an immediate benefit of discussing the book. Besides the difficult times some poetry expressed the beauty of nature around us, and the strength of God and spirituality.

Volleyball season wrapped up for the year with a fun match Tuesday night between the eighth grade girls and our staff. The adults got to be kids again, with wild costumes and Halloween makeup. I noticed that whenever our staff started pulling too far ahead, their serve suspiciously failed them and control of the ball went back to the students.  We laughed at the trick shots and fun antics to give the kids more chances, but after two overtime games with many ties and rallies the staff prevailed.

I was showing a visitor from Germany around St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus. When she heard how far away our visitor had come from, one of our first graders asked, “Have you ever been to White Lake?” (a small town of about 400 a few miles from Chamberlain).

“That’s where I was in foster care before I came to St. Joseph’s.”

Our visitor remarked that there is such a contradiction between how so many of the children seem normal and well adjusted, yet realizing that it is often sad circumstance that brought them here. The younger students talk more freely about life’s difficulties than our older ones, but we encourage all to work through life’s hardships.

I stopped at the museum to wish Vickie a happy birthday. Perhaps a third of our museum has been put into storage preparing for the next phase of work, and the space looks so empty. But in a few months we’ll be having some great new updates. We are still open and have a good number of visitors from hunters in the area for pheasant season.

Tonight we held FAST (Families and Students together) graduation. FAST has helped strengthen ties between St. Joseph and the families, and hopefully strengthened the relationship between students and their parents/guardians. One parent shared,

“This program brought me and my kids closer than ever.”

Guest Blogger: Fr. Anthony

Dear Benefactors,

I have the chance to share what’s happening here at St. Joseph’s Indian School since Fr. Steve is away for a donor luncheon in the Denver area.

This past Thursday saw the sign up for the girls’ basketball teams.  Each grade from 4th to 8th have their own team and will play local schools in the area.  They are now practicing in preparation for the opening of the season in early November.

Chamberlain’s High School football team had their last game prior to the state play-offs Thursday evening and it was an adventure as the weather made it difficult to do anything.  The wind was blowing 35 to 40 miles per hour with some wind gusts as high as 60-79 mph.  Though the Cubs came up a bit short, they qualified for play-offs and will journey northwest to play Cheyenne-Eagle Butte on Tuesday.

Friday saw the kick-off of Red Ribbon Week as inflatables were brought into the rec center for the students to have some fun.  Lots of shouts of glee the students climbed up, slid down and bounced on various inflatables.  Each home also provided a delicious snack to be shared.  During this upcoming week the students will celebrate such days as wearing their pjs on Monday with the theme ‘follow your dreams … don’t do drugs!’; on Wednesday they’ll wear their Red Ribbon Week T-shirt which states ‘Be the change you want to see in the World’ and paint their faces blue to stress ‘I will say NO to drugs until I’m blue in the face’; and on Friday they’ll be asked to wear the colors of red, white and blue so as to make the statement ‘I elect to be drug free!’  There will also be a trivia contest held over the school intercom to remind the students of the danger of drugs and give them some insights as to how they can stay strong and say NO.

Saturday brought lovely weather which gave everyone the opportunity to get outside and work off some energy.  It was also the opening of the pheasant hunting season which brings a lot of hunters to the area.  I heard some shots from across the Missouri River on Sunday afternoon.

Just as the NBA is in their pre-season, so those taking part in the inter-city basketball league had a practice game on Sunday.  We have four teams made up of 6th, 7th and 8th grade boys from St. Joseph’s and the Chamberlain area.  In January, when the boys’ basketball season begins the girls’ will then have their inter-city basketball league. The program gives the young people in the area the chance to get to know and interact with each other so when entering high school they will already know each other.

Sunday was also very special since the first Native American Saint, Kateri Tekakwitha, was canonized in Rome, Italy.  The homes were alerted that EWTN was showing the ceremonies live at 2:30 AM Sunday morning with a repeat at 10:00 AM.

Deacon Bud Jetty and Deacon Steve McLaughlin, who help the Priests of the Sacred Heart minister in Chamberlain and on the Lower Brule and Crow Creek Indian Reservations were designated by the Sioux Falls Diocese to represent the diocese at the canonization.  We look forward to their return to hear how everything went.

Hope each of you will have a wonderful week ahead!  May our Loving God continue to bless and reward you for your generosity towards and interest in the Lakota children we serve at St. Joseph’s Indian School.  You are remembered in our prayers.

Lakota students learning important values

I’ve been around campus the past few days, but haven’t spent much time in the office. Starting Monday afternoon through this morning, all the priests and deacons who are part of the Sioux Falls Diocese gathered for our annual Clergy Days. Besides topics of continuing education, it provides the chance for social time and renewing friendships and support. The diocese gathered just across the river at Cedar Shores Convention Center. Rather than getting a hotel room three miles away I commuted, and was able to check in with life on campus and take care of a few of the notes and messages that come my way.

In the midst of that, on Wednesday we held a Board of Directors meeting for St. Joseph’s Indian School. One of the main fall items is to review the audit report. The good news is that the books are in good shape and the numbers add up to make our programs possible. We heard reports not just from our Child Services programs, but from the Sacred Heart Center in Eagle Butte, where we support a wide range of Indian reservation based social services programs, and from the Lower Brule and Crow Creek reservations, where my SCJ community continually reaches out through parish work to meet pastoral needs.

Deacon Dave Nagel, who was the director at St. Joseph before me, is now our provincial treasurer and still serves on the board. He enjoyed his time back on campus and made the rounds to catch up with as many of the staff as he could.

At our Clergy Days Social, Fr. Jerome, who is now retired, told me he had been a missionary with Maryknoll in Thailand. Craig, our junior high Language Arts teacher, also worked there, and in fact met his wife Ja overseas. In one of those small world stories, they knew each other, and after a quick phone call I was able to help them reconnect and relive lots of memories.

Besides theological input, the South Dakota Department of Criminal Investigation helped educate us on the scourge of methamphetamines. While big cities may struggle more with cocaine or heroin, for the Midwest and rural America in particular, meth is the bigger problem. On the Lower Brule Indian Reservation, near tribal headquarters, a prominent billboard reminds the tribe, “Meth is Death.” From my time as pastor, I would agree that addictions of every kind tear families apart and are the biggest block to spiritual growth and well-being. The stories from police in the field, and hard to view photos to back them up, brought home the harsh reality in a new and powerful way. In a few weeks we at St. Joseph will celebrate Red Ribbon Week, trying to get across the message early and often to our students – we all need to work together to prevent drug abuse and the horrible impact it has on our communities.

Clergy Days was not all meetings. One evening was the jubilee celebrations for those who have served in the priesthood for 25, 50 and even 60 years. Another evening the local Knights of Columbus grilled some good South Dakota steaks and hosted everyone at the local parish. Tuesday afternoon was free for folks to relax, and I offered a tour of St. Joseph’s campus for folks who have not seen our facilities. We started at Akta Lakota Museum, then dropped by the school. Our second graders were using the smart board to polish their addition by learning to count coins and add up the values. Our choir was practicing songs for church on Sunday, and took us through the hand motions to the song “His Banner of Me is Love.” I was tickled to see one of the 80-year-old priests, seated in a chair, smiling as he mimicked their actions.

Once school was out, we visited Afra Home, where the 1st – 3rd grade girls were gracious hostesses and gave tours. Some were very brief –

“Here is the dining room and here is the kitchen.”

Other students took lots of time showing everything, even digging out the variety of toys in the playroom.

We ended our tour in Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel, and spoke of our pastoral and spiritual efforts to help our students come to know and love God.

After school on Wednesday, I heard the loud beat of the drum, and followed the sound to the edge of the playground. Our Chalk Hills Singers group was gathered around the drum in the shade of an old cottonwood tree. Dave, one of our Native American Studies teachers, was helping them master the songs. It was also his birthday, so when I mentioned it, his son Courage started on the drum, and led the group in a powwow style ‘Happy Birthday’ song.

As I walked back to the office, I ran into our Student Leadership Group, loaded down with carrying bags, full of goodies. They had been up to Central Receiving, where we keep all our donated items. Through people’s generosity we have gotten a large amount of school supplies, and they were bagging up items we have a lot of, like crayons and notebooks, and preparing some gift bags for students in nearby schools who are in need. I thanked Frank, their adviser, for organizing such a thoughtful service project as our students learn the important values of generosity and service.


Guest Blogger: Chris B.

Native American students race each other on the bungee run during Red Ribbon Week.
Danni and Tashia race each other on the bungee run during Red Ribbon Week.

My name is Chris and I am the Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coordinator at St. Joseph’s Indian School. I feel so blessed to work with such a great group of kids! The staff here is pretty amazing, too. St. Joseph’s is like a close-knit family – everyone is always willing to pitch in and lend a hand where needed. No matter what kind of work employees do here, everyone is working towards the same goals – to love and care for these children, make them feel like they belong at St. Joseph’s and to foster good relationships with their families so their stay away from home is a positive experience for both the kids and their families.

I facilitate Red Path groups for our fourth through eighth grade students. Red Path is a support group for children who come from homes where substance abuse is an issue. The majority of our kids have been exposed to drug or alcohol abuse, so there is a great need for understanding addiction and how it affects family dynamics. In addition to feeling ashamed and having trust issues, these kids often think they are to blame for a family member’s use. Red Path allows them to sort through their feelings and helps them realize they are not alone.

We have a Substance Abuse Prevention Committee (SAPC) that plans fun activities throughout the school year. The message during these events is clear:

  • It is cool to live a drug-free life,
  • It is important to take good care of your body and mind and
  • It’s easy to have lots of fun when you’re not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

We are already planning some good stuff for Red Ribbon Week in October, like relays in which the homes will race against each other and an inflatable party. We’re even planning on having the kids paint their faces blue during the relays to go along with the theme,

“I’ll say NO to drugs until I’m blue in the face!”

I will spend a quarter in each of the first through eighth grade classrooms this year teaching prevention. I’m currently working with first and second graders, and we have been learning about scientists and how they find answers to their questions. We have been talking about different things scientists study like addiction and the effects drugs have on the human body.

Thanks to each and every one of you for your ongoing support; whether you support us through prayers, monetary donations or items like clothing and books, the St. Joseph’s community is humbled and grateful for your kindness!

Guest Blogger: Julie H.

Greetings from warm and sunny Chamberlain, South Dakota!  St. Joseph’s Indian School sends warm regards and blessings to all of you!

My name is Julie H. and I have been with St. Joseph’s Indian School for almost 11 years.  What a great 11 years it has been!  I am currently a Family Service Counselor and work with girls in grades 6-12.  I work under the umbrella of the Clinical Services Department.  The Clinical Services Department is currently made up of 13 staff.  We have nine Family Service Counselors, a Drug and Alcohol Prevention Specialist, a Family Liaison and Clinical Support staff, all led by our fearless Clinical Director.  What does the Clinical Services Department do?  Well, we do a little bit of everything!

Our nine Family Service Counselors work with all students in grades 1-12.  We offer weekly individual counseling, group counseling, and enrichment activities.  We also serve as a contact and liaison with our students’ families.

We are available to assist houseparents with questions and concerns they may have regarding student issues.  We run a group for our high school students called Sons and Daughters of Tradition.  The focus of this group is to help the students get back to their Native roots, while working on Drug and Alcohol Prevention.   Family Service Counselors are also available to help in the school should a student have difficulties throughout the day.  Family Service Counselors wear many hats, but our main priority is being here to help the students and their families with anything they need.

Our Drug and Alcohol Prevention Specialist works with the students on drug and alcohol prevention, helping students learn to say NO to substance abuse.  Our Prevention Specialist runs a group called Red Path, coordinates activities for Red Ribbon Week and our other Sobriety Celebrations.

Our Clinical Support Specialist is truly a jack of all trades!  She works on admissions, sets up travel plans for our students who participate in donor luncheons and helps out the department in any way she can.  She is a great support to all of us!

The Family Liaison coordinates and recruits families for our FAST (Families and Schools Together) program.  She works hard to get everything ready for our programs, helps transports families to the program and is an integral staff person in the program itself.  After the program concludes, she also continues to meet with the families that have graduated from the program.

Our Clinical Director keeps us all in line!  She is a great supervisor and is available to assist any of us when we have questions or concerns regarding our students and families.  Our Clinical Director oversees all of the programs of the department and is a great support and resource.

That is just a quick overview of what the Clinical Services Department does.  There is a great deal we do, but with limited blog space, I just wanted to offer you the highlights!

If you are ever in Chamberlain, at St. Joseph’s Indian School and you want a greater overview of all of the great work the Clinical Services Department does, please stop by!  Any of the departments would be happy to sit down with you and answer questions you may have!

Have a safe, blessed and great summer!

Julie H. (Family Service Counselor)

Drug Free is the way to Be

First thing this morning, a group of Lakota (Sioux) students were in front of the school painting the road red to finish off our celebration of Red Ribbon Week. With rollers in hand they painted slogans like, “Drug Free is the way to Be” and other reminders of what this week is about. Part of keeping kids off drugs is talking to them early and often about it, and providing fun and safe alternatives that give them a sense of fulfillment and fun.

Before the snows fly and the cold weather sets in, several construction crews are scrambling around campus. We had to redo the loading dock at the business office and they are getting ready to pour concrete. The Stevens/Mathias Home remodeling project is speeding up to get insulation and siding finished so the inside work can be done over the winter months. And at the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center expansion the workers have poured the initial footings and are installing rebar.

I went to a construction update meeting today that was rather technical about how to transition from in the old cooling system to the new without having to shut down the Akta Lakota Museum for too long. I’m glad we have a variety of talents on campus that can deal with everything from mechanical issues to finance to aesthetics. In my role, I just try to be supportive and keep people collaborating to move things along.

A word from Fr. Anthony

Greetings once again from St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota.  Hope you all had a wonderful weekend.

Fr. Steve Huffstetter, SCJ was on the road again having the chance to visit family in Florida to take part in a Baptism.  While he was able to enjoy some personal time, it gives me the opportunity once again to share with you what happened over this past weekend.

We saw a lot of red on campus as St. Joseph’s Indian School’s annual Fall Sobriety “Red Ribbon Week” kicked off.  It is a program to help our American Indian students realize there are a variety of ways to get high on life that do not require turning toward drugs or drinking.  The students wore shirts carrying the saying, ‘My extreme commitment is living drug free’.  On Friday night, the rec center rang with oh’s, ah’s and shouts of laughter as several large inflatables were erected for the students to jump on, climb over and slide down.  There will be several special theme days this week: on ‘Drugs turn you inside out’ day the students are urged to wear their clothes inside out; on ‘Being drug free is no sweat’ they can wear sweat clothes to class; and on ‘Team up against drugs’ they are urged to wear a sport’s jersey.

Friday also was the end of the First Quarter at Chamberlain High School.  The mid-term grades hinted there might be a new name on the trophy our high school homes contend for.  The Hogebach Home has been the defending champion, but it looks like Sheehy Home might beat them out by a narrow percentage.  We’ll have to see if the grades hold up.  Several students were working hard to achieve 4.0 grade points.  It seems to highlight a renewed interest in academics.

The members of the football team received some exciting news that they qualified for the South Dakota state play-offs.  Though they had a tough season, they played tough teams which enabled them to have enough power points to qualify.  We have four young men on the team, one of our young ladies is a member of the cheerleader squad and another student is the Cub mascot.  They will be playing Little Wound on Tuesday.

The high school also qualified several for the cross-country championships which were held this past weekend in Sioux Falls.  The girls’ team came in 5th out of sixteen teams.  Two of the teams have St. Joseph ties.  Talia, who moved up from JV to Varsity, and the daughter of one of our staff were part of the team.  They have a strong tradition of cross-country at CHS which ought to continue since several key members of the team return again next year.

On Sunday, the inter-city boys’ basketball season kicked off.  This program is geared to offer an activity for the 6th, 7th and 8th grade young men of St. Joseph’s and the Chamberlain area to play basketball and get to know each other while the girls’ season is underway.  Then when the boys have their season, after Christmas, the girls will have the chance to take part in the inter-city program for them.  This is the first year that 6th graders are able to take part and, as they may not get a lot of playing time, the rec center staff decided that at half time sixth graders will have a five-minute quarter just to themselves.

With Halloween on the horizon, our youth are looking forward to the activities for that.  There will be trick-or-treating here on campus and the high school students have a dance, movies and games at the high school.  The students here on campus will have a grand march in the rec center with prizes given for best costumes.

Have a great week.  May the Great Spirit continue to bless you and yours.  We are always grateful for your generosity and keep you and your intentions in our prayers.  Until next time.

Fr. Anthony Kluckman, SCJ


St. Joseph’s Indian School