Notre Dame Interns Reflect on St. Joseph’s Indian School Bookmobile Summer Tour

Posted on: August 8, 2022

The St. Joseph’s Indian School Bookmobile wrapped up a busy summer on July 15. The outreach made stops in 43 communities, crisscrossing the state to serve nearly 1,500 children and adults. Fifty-six alumni visited with Alumni Liaison and Bookmobile Coordinator Andy Lepkowski and the crew.

In addition to Andy, many of the school’s staff volunteered this year, several of them family service counselors hoping to connect with families and students. Jocelyn Limon and Myldred Hernandez-Gonzalez, undergraduates at the University of Notre Dame who participated in the six-week experience as a summer internship, also joined the crew.

The Bookmobile crew distributed a record 18,518 books, 1,800 of which were Native American books by Native American authors. Lily Mendoza of the Bird Cage Book Store and Mercantile in Rapid City, S.D., assisted the school in ordering these greatly appreciated books for the second consecutive year.

Limon’s reflection on her experience included these thoughts:

I learned so much from my experience with St. Joseph’s. I was placed outside of my comfort zone many times, which allowed me to learn about the harsh realities of what life on the reservation might look like. I learned that life for Native peoples has been systematically limited by both distance and lack of resources that would otherwise help them advance. Despite all these limitations, people seek opportunities and are working very hard to break these barriers and improve their communities for themselves and their children. If there is one thing I have learned about Lakota people, they have been resilient throughout history and continue to be so.

Hernandez-Gonzalez shared these impressions:

As someone who comes from an urban community, I realized that I took public libraries and used bookstores for granted. As Jocelyn and I visited the different Native communities, we were greeted by kids genuinely excited to receive free books for the summer. My favorite memory is of a little boy from Potato Creek who jumped with joy after seeing a SpongeBob book. Of course, after seeing his excitement, we ran around the Bookmobile to find every SpongeBob book we could give him.

As we served adults, many shared the history of the Lakota people with us. Throughout my time working, I learned about the Wounded Knee Massacre, Crazy Horse and General Custer, and much more. Unfortunately, these stories of both Native tragedy and resilience are left out of textbooks, and I am eternally grateful for learning about them … I am thankful to have been welcomed into these spaces, and I will cherish this experience fondly.

St. Joseph’s Indian School Bookmobile is honored to have shared this experience with these two young women and to have been a guest in so many Native communities.