This past weekend (September 15-16) Novices Henry Nguyen and Paul Phong Hong attended the American Indian Day Powwow at St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, SD. Henry wrote the following reflection on the experience:
It all started some time ago when Fr. Christianus Hendrik, SCJ, extended an invitation to the novitiate class to visit South Dakota and to attend the powwow at St. Joseph’s Indian School. At the time I didn’t even know what a “powwow” was.
The weekend came and flew by and I had a great time! Even though it was only for a few days, this experience opened both my heart and mind. Fellow novice Phong (Paul) Hoang and I got a glimpse of South Dakota when we attended the 41st annual powwow with Fr. Byron Haaland (novice master), Fr. Mark Fortner, and Fr. Ed Killianski (provincial superior).
At St. Joe’s we became “tiyospaye,” a part of the extended family of St. Joe’s. The spirit of hospitality was well presented as we were welcomed by the SCJs who serve in South Dakota: Frs. Anthony Kluckman, Bernard Rosinski, Christianus Hendrk, Joseph Dean and Vincent Suparman. SCJ Frs. Tom Westhoven and Gary Lantz also travelled to attend the powwow.
We spent the weekend immersed in Lakota traditions and multiple cultural activities. At the Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center we got a snippet of the history of the Lakota people and how the SCJs came to South Dakota and established St. Joe’s. We also had lots of conversations with St. Joe’s students, teachers, houseparents, and staff. Other visitors of this powwow included family, friends, and benefactors of St. Joe’s. Over 75% of the attendees were visiting St. Joe’s for the first time, and for many it was also their first powwow experience. We saw a wonderful testament of benefactors’ love for the students when we learned that they had provided 300 pairs of matching sports shoes!
At the powwow I was able to feel Dehonian spirituality from those who were houseparents, teachers and staff at St. Joe’s, as well as in the benefactors. They all love with an open heart and mind. They come to serve those who are in need and most importantly, are for the youth, as seen in our mission statement. We heard stories from parents and grandparents on why their child was attending St. Joseph’s, also stories from houseparents as to why they provide their gifts and talents for the children. The stories were touching and impactful.
Visitors were able to participate in multiple activities such as dream catcher crafting with the help of the students, Lakota hand games, and a preview of the dance presentation that was to be presented at the powwow (including grass, traditional, and fancy dance).
The new Health and Family Services center was open to visitors. As I toured St. Joe’s I saw that the school’s motto is “developing the mind, body, heart, and spirit of the Lakota (Sioux)” for 90 years. Many of the students and alumni shared stories of how being at St. Joe’s influenced and changed their lives. Although St. Joe’s is primarily a grade school, there is also a high school program for children to live at St. Joe’s while attending Chamberlain High School.
Part of the students’ education includes Native American Studies and life skills classes that teach about nutrition, cooking, budgeting, and other skills to prepare students for the future.
Saturday was the main event, with the powwow dance and Indian drum group competitions. Over 80 youth participated in the dance competition and multiple groups competed in the drum contest. After the powwow, Mass was celebrated at the Our Lady of Sioux Chapel where Fr. Anthony presided. This was another experience to witness the Lakota tradition in Mass. One word: beautiful.
Before leaving South Dakota we didn’t want to miss seeing Dignity. Dignity is a statue of a woman who stands high and tall right next to the Missouri River honoring the Lakota and Dakota people.
I’ll be back to explore more of what South Dakota offers. Pilamaya – Thank you! It’s not a goodbye, but a “see you later” South Dakota.