Back-to-School at St. Joseph’s Indian School

Posted on: August 16, 2023

A new tradition borne of the pandemic continued at St. Joseph’s Indian School under bright and shiny skies along the banks of the Missouri River. Nearly 200 students and dozens of staff from across the campus celebrated the fourth annual outdoor back-to-school parade.

“Our students are the heart and soul of campus,” said President Mike Tyrell, “and when we begin a new year, everyone wants to turn out to welcome them back. They are the reason we are here. They are our mission.”

Students began the route just outside Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel when they emerged from a Feast of the Assumption prayer service. They passed under a blue and yellow balloon arch. Indeed staff turned out in myriad ways to celebrate the return of the wakȟáŋeža (children – sacred holy ones). Some offered smiles, waves and cheers. Others blew horns and whistles or showered the students with bubbles. There were cookies and candy to sweeten the walk. Rec Center staff tossed footballs back and forth with passing students. The Bookmobile was on hand with free reading material. The school’s equine therapy horses participated, as well.

“Hi, Mom,” shouted one high school boy as he passed in front of the Facebook-live camera.” “It is lovely here … anybody watching this should come to St. Joe’s,” said fifth-grader Isabella Peneaux. The Facebook-live video provided the opportunity for friends and family members of St. Joseph’s Indian School to be a part of the school-beginning event.

Fifth-grader TateWin Cooke admitted, “My favorite part of the parade was the Mexican candy because it was sour.”

The parade, which lasted a little more than 11 minutes, is the culmination of three days of student return that began on Sunday when students headed to the Dehon Health Center for a quick check-in and then went to school to meet their teachers and enjoy a meal, part of an effort to build and keep strong relationships with families.

Monday was a day for campus homes to settle in and establish and rebuild relationships. This adjustment time to homes helps students feel more comfortable and prepared for the academic year.

As back-to-school continued throughout the week in the classrooms, students participated in goal-setting for the year, a practice that improves student self-direction and achievement, according to Principal Sharmel Olson.