Join in the Fun and Rich Culture at St. Joseph’s Indian School’s Annual Wáchipi
Back-to-school at St. Joseph’s Indian School means more than reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. It means students and staff go into high gear preparing for the powwow of the wakhaŋeža (the blessed little ones) who gather annually on the third Saturday of September to celebrate their culture. Ninety-four St. Joseph’s students and more dancers from around the region are practicing to dance in beautiful Native American regalia on Saturday, September 16, 2023. Eighteen St. Joe’s boys are ready to pound out the heartbeat of the people.
The students take pride and joy in being able to express themselves through traditional Lakota songs and dance. In a royalty competition on September 6, both boys and girls will perform a dance demonstration to display their talents and knowledge of their culture. The high school girls from St. Joe’s are turning out fourteen strong to dance. One of them said, “I feel proud because I get to dance when my ancestors couldn’t,” a reference to the cultural repression experienced by Native Americans until the late 1970s.
On Friday, September 15, cultural activities start in the morning at the Aktá Lakota Museum & Cultural Center and Rec Center. From noon to 1 p.m., don’t miss the open house at the school’s new Equine Therapy Center. A cultural performance at the Rec Center begins at 3:30 p.m. Visitors can tour the school and campus. On Saturday morning, they can visit the homes and Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel or stop and chat with the Notre Dame interns who accompanied the Bookmobile this past summer. The wačhípi begins with a blessing of the powwow grounds. Grand entry and powwow start at noon sharp, and Mass is at 5:00 p.m. with a complimentary meal to follow.
St. Joseph’s students have enjoyed traditional dance on campus since the 1950s when Brother Mathias made sure it was part of celebrations and even took students touring as far away as Notre Dame to share the cultural tradition. The school began a public, traditional children’s wačhípi in 1976 to celebrate connections to tradition, spirituality, Uŋčí Makȟa (Grandmother Earth) and one another. It is a social, personal and spiritual event.
The powwow is free and open to the public with handicap accessibility. For more information and a complete schedule of events, don’t hesitate to contact St. Joseph’s Indian School at 605-234-3313 or visit stjo.org/powwow. If you cannot attend in person, follow postings and live updates virtually with
St. Joseph’s Indian School on Facebook at www.stjo.org/facebook. In the case of rain, the powwow moves to the Chamberlain Armory.