Another Successful Cultural Trip in the Books at St. Joseph’s

Posted on: May 21, 2024

On Thursday, May 16, the 21 seventh-grade students of St. Joseph’s Indian School prayed and smudged before embarking on the trip that has become a rite of passage. The journey, which comprises five days traveling to important cultural sites and reflecting upon the lives of their ancestors, prepares them to become leaders at school and in life. On Tuesday, May 21, they worked on presentations about their experience to share their learning with younger students and step into their leadership roles for the coming year.

Months of preparation included learning about the cultural, spiritual and historical significance of their Lakota ancestors’ sacred sites on the trip: Matȟó Pahá (Bear Butte), Phešlá (Bald Area), Heȟáka Sapa He (Black Elk Peak), Tȟašúŋke Witkó Memorial (Crazy Horse), Matȟó Thípila (Bear’s Lodge), Wašúŋ Wičhóniya Wakȟáŋ (Wind Cave), Pheži Slá Okíčhize Owáŋka (Battle of Greasy Grass/Little Big Horn), Čhaŋkpé Ópi (Wounded Knee). Following the path of their ancestors and cultural icons, the goal of the trip is the spiritual, physical and emotional growth that forms them young people into tomorrow’s leaders.

Mykah Goings said she especially enjoyed Black Elk Peak. “To be where my ancestors were” felt special to her.

For James Blue, climbing around and exploring the Bad Lands was the best part. Cell phones were left behind for the trip. When asked how he felt about that, James said, “It was better without phones,” acknowledging they can be a distraction.

Tristine Larvie was moved by the Crazy Horse Memorial. Of Korczak Ziolkowski and the others who have worked and continue the work of the monument, she noted how they have “dedicated their lives to show our history.”

Pointing to the Crocs on his feet, Brayden Thunder Shield said proudly, “These are the very Crocs I wore when I climbed Bear Butte and Black Elk Peak.” For him, the hikes were the best part of the trip.

There were many highlights for Braxton Drapeau – Sunday at Crazy Horse, learning about the Battle of Little Big Horn and the Native sharpshooter – but he kept going back to Evan’s Plunge as his favorite. “Except, maybe, when we all sang to the music on the bus on the way back from Matȟó Thípila.”

The groups travel separately as boys and girls. This split is in keeping with the traditional instruction in ways of maturing. On this seventeenth anniversary trip, each day concluded by gathering in a circle, where students reflected on the day’s experiences and their implications for their understanding of leadership.