Culture Shines as St. Joseph’s Indian School Celebrates Native American Week

Posted on: October 14, 2022

While others celebrated Native American Day on October 10, staff and students at St. Joseph’s Indian School cracked open the cultural spectrum to enjoy all of the light and color of the student’s cultural heritage throughout the week.

Monday was “Free Day.” Students chose from a myriad of cultural options: visit, study or draw the šúŋkawakȟáŋ (the equine therapy horses); play hand games; dance; learn about the stained glass in Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel; visit the Aktá Lakota Museum; braid hair; cook cultural food; learn an Inipi prayer song; watch a movie related to the Lakota people; harvest cedar or sage from the Medicine Wheel Garden; and more.

“Hair braiding helped me so that I can braid my little sister’s hair,” said fifth-grader Hehaka Black Lance of the Native American Studies class activity. His classmate Alex Big Crow added, “I liked learning the pattern of braiding different styles.

Tuesday brought “Vibe Your Tribe Day.” Students dressed to honor their heritage. Clothing was a rainbow of ribbon skirts, ribbon shirts, Native prints and St. Joe wear.

Fifth-grader Say’Dee Summers said wearing her ribbon skirt made her “feel like my old Native American self.” Her classmate, Melissa Stead, noted, “It feels nice to wear because I feel confident.”

Wednesday became “Get Essential Day.” Teachers selected from the Essential Understandings of the Očhéti Šakówiŋ, the state’s Native American cultural curriculum, studied year ‘round at St. Joseph’s Indian School. Each teacher offered the lesson of their choice.

Sixth grader Myah Bagola explained, “In Lori’s Math Class, we got to find a bead design on the Internet, and we recreated the design through a computer program, then applied our own colors.”

Thursday was “Circle Around Day.” The school’s Wisdom Circle at the heart of campus was the planned locus of activity. In the morning, weather forced the Four Directions Prayer indoors to Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel. But, in the afternoon, the Chalk Hills Singers Drum Group — Pahá Makȟásaŋ Lowáŋpi – set the beat for featured Native American social dances on the Wisdom Circle: rabbit dance, potato dance, switch dance and snake dance. Parents arriving on campus for parent-teacher conferences in the afternoon were invited to join in.

Friday, “Surprise Day,” was a real palate-pleaser. After wondering what the surprise might be all week long, students and staff were delighted to be served homemade frybread and wóžapi, a sweet fruit pudding for dipping.

Capping the cultural expression enjoyed throughout the week, Red Cloud Indian School and St. Joseph’s partnered to instruct Lakota Language basics in a seminar for staff and high school students all day Saturday. Some 40 individuals planned to attend. Because language is the vessel that keeps culture alive, this was a fitting finish to the week’s cultural celebration.