Traditional Lakota Values Meet Bullying Prevention

Hello from St. Joseph’s sixth, seventh and eighth-grade homes, where we are working on our Olweus program.  We kicked off our anti-bullying campaign back in

Claire is a houseparent at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

September, and we are currently in full swing.

Once a week, our Lakota (Sioux) students go to their homerooms for a class meeting on bullying prevention.   They have similar meetings in their homes as well. They start off by going over the four rules:

We will not bully.

We will try to help students who are being bullied.

We will try to include students who are left out.

If we know someone is being bullied, we will tell and adult at school and at home.

These simple rules are posted in homes and classrooms as steady reminders of our commitment to making St. Joseph’s Indian School a safe, bully-free zone. Meetings are used to talk about how things are going in the community and to deal with issues as they come up.  They are also times to build skills like recognizing bullying situations and intervening.

I wish I could say that we don’t have bullying at St. Joseph’s, but we do.  Here, as in other schools across the country, we face the challenge of kids with more power antagonizing kids with less power (“power” can mean size, age, status, ability or social skill).  Bullying is a result of our Circle of Courage values getting out of balance.

The Circle of Courage is based on the traditional Lakota values of Belonging, Mastery, Independence and Generosity.  These are the core values we focus on with our students:

  • Beloging – I am loved, I have a place, I am a part of the community.
  • Mastery – I can do things well, I can complete tasks.
  • Independence – I can think on my own, I am reliable.
  • Generosity – I have something to offer, I can share my gifts and talents.

The value of Generosity can become skewed so that one person takes advantage of another.  When the value of Independence gets off kilter, we forget that we need other people and that other people are as valuable as we are.  If we lose sight of Mastery, we don’t work on the skills we need to manage our relationships in a healthy, fair way.   Bullying mostly tears a hole in the fabric of Belonging, where we feel like we are part of something greater than ourselves.

Fostering these values is what will lead us back into right relationships with others.  In home and class meetings, we talk about the subtle signs of bullying and how to tell if another student is having trouble Belonging.

We encourage students to be Independent and stand up for a student who is being bullied.  It takes a lot of courage to do this, especially if the situation is ambiguous or if peers seem to approve of the behavior by laughing or minimizing.   It also takes some skill (Mastery) to know what to do or say when something isn’t right.  Something as simple as saying, “[That behavior] is not ok and it needs to stop!” is hard at first.  It takes a lot of practice before it becomes comfortable.  Role-playing in meetings gives kids a chance to try out skills and get ideas from each other.

Finally, we encourage Generosity, so our students can reach out to each other and include everyone.  “Put yourself in his or her shoes… what would you want someone else to do for you?”

This week’s topic is cyber bullying.  Our junior high students do not have regular, easy access to the internet and cell phones while they are at St. Joseph’s.  However, many of them have access to Facebook and other social media sites when they are “home home” with their families.

Soon, many of them will go on to be part of our high school program, where they will have to deal with the added responsibility and freedom of having a laptop.  Now is a good time to talk about the hazards of over-sharing on the web.  It is so much easier to be cruel in the faceless world of the internet, than it is to be hurtful face to face in real time.  It is also hard to tell when someone is “just kidding” in a brief text or comment, without the benefit of body language, tone or facial expression.

If you are reading this blog post, you are probably cyber-savvy enough to know what I am talking about.  It is a whole different world online.

Thank you for your support of St. Joseph’s and our efforts to make our campus a safe place for Native American youth.  It takes everyone in our community working and praying together to create the kind of school that we all want to be part of.


Claire, 6th-8th grade houseparent

Author: St. Joseph's Indian School

At St. Joseph's Indian School, our privately-funded programs for Lakota (Sioux) children in need have evolved over 90 years of family partnership, experience and education. Because of generous friends who share tax-deductible donations, Native American youth receive a safe, stable home life; individual counseling and guidance; carefully planned curriculum based on Lakota culture and individual student needs and tools to help build confidence, boost self-esteem and improve cultural awareness. All of this helps children to live a bright, productive, possibility-filled future.

4 thoughts on “Traditional Lakota Values Meet Bullying Prevention”

  1. We all know that bullies are weak and insecure people. I’ve often wondered if it would help to mention that fact in a classroom setting, or in a school assembly on bullying. It might make the bullies squirm a bit realizing that everyone will view them just a little bit differently. I’m not a counselor or therapist so I don’t know if that would be a helpful or hurtful approach. It’s just a thought. You could also share with the children that Herod and Pilot were bullies and both acted out of fear, insecurity and weakness. A lot of the Saints endured bullying and ridicule too. It’s very difficult. If a children being bullied prayed for the bully, it might give them back a sense of control and power. I keep all of the children in my prayers. I will especially focus on this problem in my prayers this week. Peace and God Bless all of you.

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