Four Nurses Named 2021 Distinguished Alumni
Four nurses nominated separately for St. Joseph’s Indian School’s Distinguished Alumnus Award were collectively selected as distinguished alumni, representing all health care workers and their role as beacons of hope throughout this pandemic year. The school celebrated Savannah Weddell Aumau (1998-2006), Andrea Archambeau (2001-2010), Mary Jo Lends His Horse Dupris (1991-1997) and D’Kera Grassrope (2001-2012) at eighth-grade graduation on May 28.
Weddell Aumau started her career as a certified nursing assistant at a nursing home in Wagner, S.D. Nurses there noticed her passionate care for the residents and told her to pursue a career in nursing. On a whim, she moved to Oklahoma, where she landed close to Murray State College in Tishomingo and its excellent nursing program. A full-time student, Weddell Aumau rounded out her weeks working 32 hours each weekend as a certified nursing assistant.
After becoming a registered nurse, family drew her back to South Dakota, where she took up travel nursing, beginning in Sioux Falls. Travel nursing took her to Bismarck, N.D., Yankton, S.D., Kodiak, Alaska and Milwaukee, Wis. “Imagine going from a 12-bed hospital in Alaska to the downtown festival culture of Milwaukee,” she exclaimed. Tired of travel nursing, she took a job in Anchorage, Alaska, for four years. Weddell Aumau was at Alaska Native Medical Center at the outset of COVID-19. There she experienced the initial long waits for tests and the daily protocol changes of the early days of the pandemic.
While in Anchorage, she met and married her husband. They have a 19-old month son and recently moved to Las Vegas, Nev., closer to his family. Weddell Aumau currently works on a fast-paced, short-stay unit at Mountain View Hospital.
Archambeau began her career as a corrections officer and dispatcher in the Charles Mix County Sheriff’s Office. There, she worked full-time while taking nursing courses at Ihanktowan Community College. Transferring to Southeast Technical College for nursing, she graduated as a licensed practical nurse in 2015. After working as the school nurse at Marty Indian School, she decided to further her education. In December 2020, she received an associate degree in nursing from Northwest Iowa Community College and passed her boards. She currently works for Avera@Home in Wagner and Gregory. Her love of nursing led her back to school this year. She is on target to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in nursing this December. Archambeau says, “I have high hopes to continue my education and become a nurse practitioner in the next couple of years.” She is a proud first-time homeowner.
Lends His Horse-Dupris received her associate degree in applied science in practical nursing in 2012 from United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, N.D. Upon graduation, she passed her nursing boards and is a licensed practical nurse. Since then, she has been at Cheyenne River Health Center in Eagle Butte, S.D. Lends His Horse-Dupris finds nursing a rewarding career. “Every day, you feel you have accomplished good.”
Raised by her grandparents, she remembers her grandfather’s advice: “When you become an adult, choose a path to help your people someway somehow.” That is why she chose to return to the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation for her career. Someday, she hopes to write a book about her grandfather, who had a master’s in education and was a principal, social worker, counselor and cowboy. She said that between her grandparents and her “second home” at St. Joseph’s, “I am very lucky. I had a very rich upbringing.”
Lends His Horse-Dupris spoke sorrowfully of the loss of so many elderly speakers of the Lakota language during the pandemic and noted the sadness she felt to see all of the people around the world suffering.
Archambeau nominated life-long friend Grassrope for the award, saying, “She accomplished great things in her nursing and army careers, continues to advance to greater things each day and walks with Sioux pride and dignity.” Grassrope and Archambeau roomed together at Southeast Technical College. Currently, she is in Dakota Wesleyan University’s RN to BSN bridge program, working towards her Bachelor of Science in nursing. After graduation in December 2022, Grassrope will sit for registered nursing boards. She has her sights set on a Master of Science in nursing.
After high school, Grassrope enlisted in the U.S. Army as a 74D chemical operations specialist. Following training, she returned to Sanford Medical Center Chamberlain for her first taste of healthcare as a certified nursing assistant, a job she cherished. From her initial passion for geriatrics, she has grown to enjoy all specialties in her current work as a licensed practical nurse. In the Army Reserve, her role has changed to combat medic focusing on battlefield medicine such as trauma and other tactical skills, work she described as “fast-paced but rewarding.” Of nursing, Grassrope said, “It is an ongoing journey of learning honor, humility and a chance to make even the smallest difference in the lives of your patients. That is my ‘why.’”
Speaking of her experience at St. Joseph’s, Grassrope said, “I am so lucky to have the number of people in my corner that I do … It truly does take a village to raise a child, and I will forever be grateful.” Congratulating the eighth-grade graduates, she said, “This day is for you, and you deserve happiness. High school is a time to focus on forming good habits that will set you up to succeed later on down the road. Don’t be afraid to take risks and follow your dreams.”
St. Joseph’s began giving the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2006. The award recognizes those who have acted in service to others, participated in activities that have made a difference to the well-being of others and/or made a positive contribution to their culture or community.
Marilyn Goodlow, 2020, Distinguished Alumnus
Marilyn Goodlow has received the 2020 Distinguished Alumnus Award. Marilyn attended St. Joseph’s from 1988 – 1997, graduating from the High School program. She also participated in a unique St. Joseph’s Indian School college program where she attended Dakota Wesleyan University. She is an enrolled member of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe.
“Throughout her high school years at St. Joseph’s Indian School, Marilyn set a good example as a person and student. After leaving, she went to college while raising her family and working in a medical setting. She has always been appreciative to St. Joseph’s for what they have done for her throughout the years and has set a good example for others in her community,” said Mike Renbarger, St. Joseph’s Indian School Food Service Coordinator and nominator.
Marilyn’s nominations describe her as a positive role model throughout her schooling and in her adult life. In addition to her involvement in her three children’s academic life, she and her husband, Weylin, make their own regalia with them and participate in wachipi and other traditional activities.
Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, a ceremony did not take place per usual on campus, and Marilyn received a plaque and star quilt in person delivered to Rapid City by Andy Lepkowski, Alumni Liaison
Marilyn lives in Rapid City and currently works in Medical Records at Monument Health.
Professional Experiences: Medical Records, Monument Health, Rapid City, SD
Education:Medical Records degree, Western Dakota Technical Institute
Dr. Billie Kingfisher, 2019 Distinguished Alumnus
Dr. Billie Kingfisher, Jr. received the 2019 Distinguished Alumnus Award. Billie attended St. Joseph’s from 1976 to 1982, graduating with the eighth-grade class of 1982. He is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.
After high school, Billie joined the military and served in the prestigious 82nd Airborne Division and with the 3rd Infantry Regiment in the United States Army.
Billie then continued his education at the University of South Dakota, earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Native American History. In 2016, he completed his Ph.D. at Oklahoma State University.
“Be proud of who you are,” Billie told eighth-grade graduates. “You come from good people. Things might not always go the way you want, but persevere. Life is hard. Unfortunately, you will experience hard things but persevere and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Remember also to always be willing to accept help. We can’t do these things alone.
“Always pray and be mindful of our traditions — both Catholic and Lakota. All of it will help you. As you go out into the world, don’t think the small things don’t matter. It matters to be a good husband or wife, a good parent. Be a good person in your community. If you love and take care of one another, you can do extraordinary things with your life. Remember you are the future. You will be making decisions for yourself, your families, your tribe. Love, take care of one another, and you can do extraordinary things with your life.”
Today, Dr. Kingfisher is an independent scholar researching Native issues, including the influence of basketball in Native communities and the history of tribes in South Dakota. He and his wife Megan Taylor have three children.
Jeanette Germaine DeCoteau, PA-C, 2018 Distinguished Alumnus
Jeanette Germaine DeCoteau received 2018 Distinguished Alumna Award. Jeanette attended St. Joseph’s from 1947 to 1954, graduating with the eighth-grade class of 1954. She was born in Belcourt, N.D., and now lives in Washington State.
After earning her GED, she attended Highline Community College in Seattle, Wa., and obtained her degree to become a Registered Nurse. In 1969, she graduated from the University of Washington Medex Program, receiving her PA-C as a Physician Assistant.
In the course of her career, Jeanette has served others in many ways:
- Chairperson for Casey Family Programs, an organization that works to influence long-lasting improvements to the safety and success of children, families and the communities where they live.
- Native American representative for Native students in the Federal Way School District in Washington State.
- Helped start the Tahoma Indian Center in Tacoma, Washington with Betty Sampson and Joan Staples Morin. This center is dedicated to our brothers and sisters on the streets, and is operational today.
- Physician assistant student preceptor for the last 10 years through the University of Washington and Heritage College.
- Washington State Physician Assistant of the Year at the University of Washington in 2000.
- National Indian Health Board Award for improving the health care of American Indians and Alaska Natives.
- Member of the National Indian Women’s Health Steering Committee.
- Active member of St. Leo’s Parish Kateri Tekawitha Circle in Tacoma, Washington.
Jessica Kennedy Four Bear, 2017 Distinguished Alumnus
Jessica Kennedy Four Bear, an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, became the 2017 Distinguished Alumnus. Jessica graduated eighth grade with St. Joseph’s Class of 1994. After a year in St. Joseph’s High School Program, she returned to Eagle Butte to finish high school, where she graduated in 1998.
She continued her education at Western Dakota Tech from 2006 to 2008 and received an associate degree in Paralegal Studies. Intending to own a business and help her community, she volunteered wherever she could. She attended Oglala Lakota College from 2008 to 2012 and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management.
Jessica started a consulting business, writing grants for businesses and new projects on the reservation. She was accepted into the University of South Dakota School of Law in 2014 and graduated On May 6, 2017.
“Becoming a lawyer has taught me to stand up for myself, my people and the youth!” said Jessica. She chose St. Joseph’s Indian School because she struggled with bullies in elementary school.
St. Joseph’s helped prepare her to be successful, she said … but so did the bullies.
“I needed those bullies because I needed to overcome them. Nothing will stop me from continuing my dreams! Remember, you don’t have to change yourself when you go back to your reservation … If you go home, I encourage you to not change yourself just to fit in with everyone else. You don’t have to drink, you don’t have to do drugs, and you don’t have to contemplate suicide or get into unhealthy relationships. You don’t have to do that. Stick to what St. Joseph’s taught you.”
Julee Richards, 2016 Distinguished Alumnus
Julee Richards was named 2016 Distinguished Alumnus Award winner. Julee attended St. Joseph’s from 1979 to 1987, when she completed eighth grade. After eighth grade graduation, Julee went on to graduate from Pine Ridge High School in 1991.
Richards discovered her daughter was involved in methamphetamines in 2013. She didn’t wait for someone to help her, but tackled this problem head-on … even to the point of having a gun pointed at her. Richards is the founder of Mothers Against Meth Alliance, a grassroots organization fighting meth on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
In addition to hosting meth awareness presentations for youth on the reservation and coordinating outreach and awareness events, she also developed a Mothers Against Meth Alliance Facebook page. The social media page answers questions and responds to calls for help from families with loved ones who are addicted to meth.
“I’m going to fight this with everything I have because it’s such a strong, evil spirit,” Richards said. “And I’m going to get other people involved so it’s a big, community, reservation-wide effort, so we can all get involved. Because that’s what it’s going to take to overcome, to beat this meth.”
Deacon Harold Condon, 2015 Distinguished Alumnus
Deacon Harold Condon was named 2015 Distinguished Alumnus Award winner during the Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation liturgy at Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel on Sunday, April 12. Harold shared in the celebration of Mass with Fr. Anthony Kluckman, SCJ. Harold attended St. Joseph’s from August 1961 through May 1964, graduating eighth grade with the Class of 1964. After leaving St. Joseph’s, he attended high school at St. Paul’s Mission then graduated from Cheyenne Eagle Butte High School in 1968. Harold went on to receive his degree in accounting from Rutherford College in 1972.
“I learned a lot at St. Joseph’s Indian School,” he said. “But it was the spirituality, the faith I learned that gave me the strength to get through many things in my life. I watched my son serve two tours in Iraq. I lost a son to cancer. Through these times, it was my strength of faith that brought me through.”
In the mid 1970’s Harold and his wife, Geraldine, moved to Chamberlain, S.D., where he served as St. Joseph’s Chief Finance Officer. Harold and his wife also helped in the boys’ dorm, working with boys in fifth through eighth grades. Within two years, he started St. Joseph’s Lakota Studies program and, through that class, constructed St. Joseph’s first sweat lodge. Harold and Geraldine were instrumental in launching St. Joseph’s first high school program and worked in one of the high school boys’ homes.
After leaving St. Joseph’s, Harold was ordained a Deacon in the Catholic Church and ministered in parishes on the Cheyenne River Reservation, in Pine Ridge and Parmelee. He has served as a consultant and accountant for his tribe.
Sam Dupris, 2014 Distinguished Alumnus
Sam Dupris, an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, received the St. Joseph’s 2014 Distinguished Alumnus Award. Sam attended St. Joseph’s Indian School from 1938 to 1941 with his four siblings.
After completing high school in Eagle Butte, S.D., Sam served in the United States Army. He was wounded in the line of duty and honorably discharged. Sam was awarded the Purple Heart for his service.
Sam attended flight school in Texas and spent several years crop dusting. After perfecting his flight skills over the fields of the Mississippi Delta, Sam flew in Southeast Asia for Air America, which was secretly operated by the CIA.
Over the next 25 years of his flying career with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Sam worked his way through the ranks to become a captain and chief pilot. He is the first and only Native American to be employed as an FAA pilot. Sam was the first Native American to serve as a pilot with the FAA.
Described as a pathfinder and role model for Native Americans, Sam used his experience as a pilot to encourage Native American children to set their goals high. In recognition of his many accomplishments, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe proclaimed August 18 Sam Dupris Day in 2001, the same year he was inducted into the South Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 2010.
Del Iron Cloud, 2013 Distinguished Alumnus
Lakota artist Del Iron Cloud received St. Joseph’s 2013 Distinguished Alumnus Award. He attended St. Joseph’s Indian School from 1958-1960. He addressed St. Joseph’s students after a special mass to honor our 2013 graduates.
“Always remember to look back and thank the people who have helped you,” Iron Cloud said. “From the time we’re babies and take our first steps, there’s always someone waiting to catch us. That’s still true.”
Iron Cloud also presented each senior and eighth-grade graduate with a hand-painted watercolor feather in honor of their achievements so far.
An accomplished artist, Del was born in Little Eagle, S.D., on the Standing Rock Reservation. At age five, he created his first “masterpiece.” Unfortunately, the canvas was his grandmother’s kitchen door, and a bucket of water and a sponge quickly replaced the crayons in his hands.
Today, several pieces of Del’s work can be found on St. Joseph’s campus and in the Aktá Lakota Museum & Cultural Center.
Orville and Casimir LeBeau, 2012 Distinguished Alumni
Orville and Casimir LeBeau received the 2012 Distinguished Alumni Awards during Mass in Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel. In 1927, they were among the first students at the school.
“There were 21 boys and 25 girls that first year,” recalls Casimir, who came from the Eagle Butte area along with several siblings and cousins. Casimir graduated from eighth grade at St. Joseph’s Indian School in 1932.
Casimir attended St. Francis Indian School and Haskell Indian Nations University. He worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the upper Midwest before enlisting in the Coast Guard in 1940.
After retiring in 1981, he and his wife returned to Eagle Butte, S.D., where Casimir authored six books. “Your upbringing and your religion will keep you on the straight and narrow,” he advised. “Do not forget them. Also remember you will need a skill for the future. If you can’t be the best in your field, you still need to be good. Never give up.”
Orville attended St. Joseph’s Indian School from 1927-1929, along with two brothers and two sisters. He finished school in Eagle Butte, S.D., and then joined the Navy. After proudly finishing his tour as a sailor, he returned to South Dakota. He worked as a cook at Flandreau Indian School where he met his future wife. They moved to Milbank, S.D., where Orville worked in a bakery for 40 years while they raised their five children.
Orville’s son Bud accepted the Distinguished Alumnus Award on his father’s behalf. “My father is a tremendous man,” said Bud. “If he were here, he would tell you that faith, love and lifelong learning will be the foundation of your life. He is very appreciative of this award, and I’m honored to take it back to him.”
Rose Dillion, 2011 Distinguished Alumnus
Rose Dillon is the 2011 Distinguished Alumnus. Rose attended St, Josephs’s Indian School from 1973 to 1978 and went on to study Criminal Justice. From first through sixth grade, St. Joseph’s Indian School was a home-away-from-home for Rose and her siblings
“I really enjoyed the time I spent at St. Joseph’s Indian School,” said Dillion. “I want to give back in some way now because I know what St. Joseph’s helped me accomplish.”
“It’s important for these kids to know they’re not alone, that someone else has been where they are,” said Rose. “As a former student, I know what it’s like to be away from home and how hard it can be to go back home.
“Everyone has those day-to-day struggles, but you get up, dust yourself off and you work through them. You want to give up but you reach inside, reach for your inner strength to keep going, hold your head high and tell yourself, ‘you can do this.’ It’s so important to keep making good choices and always remember you have a choice with what you do with your life so get out there and make a difference!”
In addition to these encouraging words, Rose rallied her coworkers to provide Christmas gifts for six of St. Joseph’s homes.
Tammy LaRoche, 2010 Distinguished Alumnus
Tammy, an eighth-grade graduate and former employee of St. Joseph’s Indian School, is the 2010 Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient. Tammy was recognized at the 2010 Graduation Mass held at Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel, which also honored St. Joseph’s seniors and eighth-grade Lakota graduates.
Tammy came to St. Joseph’s Indian School as a second-grade student in 1977 and was an eighth-grade graduate in 1984. She also spent her sophomore year with St. Joseph’s high school program. Tammy was a leader, a positive role model for others and a responsible, conscientious student.
She graduated from Lower Brule High School as valedictorian of the class of 1988 and attended Presentation College for a short time before returning to St. Joseph’s to work as a houseparent.
After experiencing St. Joseph’s from “the other side of the table,” Tammy began working toward her degree to become a Registered Nurse and graduated from Dakota Wesleyan University in 2002.
“Always continue your education,” she urged students. “Having an education will shape the rest of your life, and you’ll never, ever go wrong getting a degree.”
Michael Jandreau, 2009 Distinguished Alumnus
Michael attended St. Joseph’s from 1953 to 1957 and was a member of the first eighth-grade class to graduate in Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel. He earned his high school diploma from Immaculate Conception High School in Stephan, S.D. After high school, he attended the University of South Dakota and Northern State University’s School of Commerce in Aberdeen, S.D.
“Attending school at St. Joseph’s left me with two very important things,” he said in a short address to students. “First, the will, strength, and desire to succeed. Second and probably more important, is gratitude to my Creator, His Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ. To have done anything in my life that I can credit to my own capacity without recognizing the role the Creator played in it would be folly.”
He served as Chairman of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, where he worked to meet the needs of his community since 1972. He was a member of the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association and served on the Regional Tribal Business Advisory Council.
He passed away in April 2015
Mike Long, 2008 Distinguished Alumnus
Mike Long of Rapid City, S.D., received St. Joseph’s Indian School’s 2008 Distinguished Alumnus Award. He attended St. Joseph’s Indian School from 1972 to 1980. The award was presented at the eighth-grade graduation ceremony on May 23, 2008.
Known as “Mingo” during his school days, Mike has always been dedicated to youth. He volunteered at the local YMCA in high school and worked with summer youth programs at St. Joseph’s Indian School during his college years.
Throughout his career, Mike focused on the needs of the younger generation, working in juvenile corrections, as Director of the YMCA Youth Outreach Program in Rapid City, S.D., and at youth facilities in Oregon and Utah.
Teresa Felicia-Estes, 2007 Distinguished Alumnus
Teresa Felicia-Estes of Lower Brule was named St. Joseph’s Indian School’s Distinguished Alumnus for 2007. As a graduate of St. Joseph’s eighth grade class of 1980, she went on to become one of the first St. Joseph’s students to graduate from Chamberlain High School in 1984. After high school, she attended Nettleton College in Sioux Falls, S.D., and then ventured north to the University of Alaska where she completed her degree.
She returned to South Dakota in 1992 and spearheaded the establishment of a Boys & Girls Club in the Lower Brule community. For many years she worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a Realty Specialist in areas of land trust responsibility. She also was a board member for Habitat for Humanity.
Sr. Madeleine LeCompte, 2006 Distinguished Alumnus
Sr. Madeleine LeCompte, OSBS, was named St. Joseph’s Indian School’s First Distinguished Alumnus in May 2006. Sr. Madeleine attended St. Joseph’s Indian School from 1929 to 1937 along with her siblings. Sr. Madeline graduated eighth grade in 1938. She finished high school at St. Francis Mission School in May 1941 and entered the Oblate Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament at St. Sylvester’s Convent in Marty, S.D.
In a 2006 interview, Sr. Madeleine recalled St. Joseph’s fondly. “St. Joseph’s provided for all our needs. The sisters encouraged each of us to use the talents we were given. I was good at music, and I remember helping the sisters teach songs to the entire group of students. I’m very grateful for those years.”
She served in Marty, Rapid City and on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota. She also served four terms on St. Joseph’s Board of Directors from May 1997 to January 2009. Sr. Madeline passed away in December 2012.