One magical Saturday each December, staff at the school transform a conference room into Santa’s workshop, fellow employees become elves, and there is even a visit from Santa himself.
The St. Joseph’s Annual Christmas Store allows students to select and wrap gifts to take back to their families over Christmas break. The experience is especially significant for the Lakota, for whom a key value is wówačhaŋtognaka – generosity – the sharing and giving of life freely.
Asked what it means to be able to return home for Christmas break with gifts for family and friends, the resounding answer from several students was a simple but powerful, “Everything.” Every student on campus can take part in the event and receives six gift tickets to spend at their discretion.
In the weeks before Santa’s Workshop Saturday, St. Joseph’s Depot and Thrift Store set up tables with a selection of gifts. Houseparents bring students to “shop” for gifts for their loved ones – a new doll for a little sister, a coat for a cousin, an afghan for uŋcí – grandma. It’s a tradition that fills the students with joy that travels beyond campus walls.
Then, when the special Saturday arrives, students head to the Christmas Store to select wrapping paper and bows to dress up their gifts. A staff of elves supports the effort; before long, each student is equipped to bring their sack of presents back home.
Now, most of the students have left campus for home, excitedly anticipating seeing their families and sharing joy.
The staff and students of St. Joseph’s Indian School are grateful for the generosity of so many who make this annual experience possible. The school sends best wishes to all of our thiyóšpaye – extended family –and looks forward to the New Year when we welcome students back.