Search Results for 'smudging'

Good afternoon! I am LaRayne, St. Joseph’s Native American Studies Teacher.

LaRayne is St. Joseph's Native American Studies teacher.

LaRayne, St. Joseph’s Native American Studies teacher

Spirituality is an important part of our mission at St. Joseph’s Indian School – to educate for life, mind, body, heart and spirit.

Smudging souls is something that has been done for generations in our tribal cultures. It is a cleansing ritual for our bodies and minds. We take advantage of special days at St. Joseph’s to perform this ritual for our children, staff and mission.

To mark a new beginning and the start of the school year, we smudged before we entered the school on the first day to show that each of us were entering the school with a clean being.  Smudging helps to rid a person or area of unwanted energies that aren’t helpful throughout the day, week, or month. Smudging is also used to bless new areas, items or places so that a fresh start is felt in the heart.

Not only is our school equipped with the ability to smudge, but also St. Joseph’s homes have everything they need for the students can be smudged whenever they feel the need to take part in this very meaningful ceremony.

Many of our students take part in smudging daily at their family’s home or watch a family member take part. The connection the ceremony has to home, culture and family is strong. I often hear our students say, “Oh, that smell reminds me of my Grandma’s house. She does that.”

Smudging is something we do as part of the whole person education to show the students that what they do is a beautiful part of who they are as Lakota/Dakota/Nakota people. It can be very prayerful and medicinal.

Students have the opportunity to smudge at St. Joseph’s whenever they feel they need to.

LaRayne holds out the burning sage for the Lakota (Sioux) students to smudge on the first day of school.

In order to smudge, you need sage or sweetgrass, (we use sage), a fireproof bowl (we use abalone or turtle shells) and a lighter or matches (optional).  Sage balls are made by removing the leaves of the sage stalks and rolling them in your palm to form small spheres.

I made several of these to burn for the 180 students plus 15-20 staff and houseparents who accompanied the kids through the open doors of our school on that exciting (yet sometimes scary!) first day of school.  When the smoke from the burning sage rises, people welcome and brush the smoke over their faces, hearts and bodies in a washing motion to feel the cleansing properties and take in the sweet scent of the sage.

If burning sage is not possible, one can also rub the leaves in the palms of the hands and then rub the hands over one’s body to cleanse. Also, the plant can be rubbed directly onto the body.

Either way, our students and staff are ready to embrace the 2014-15 school year with a connection to Mother Earth, home and school through the meaningful act of smudging.

Pilamayathank you – for helping us provide these important opportunities for the Lakota boys and girls!


Kelli, Development/Child Services Liaison.

Kelli, Development/Child Services Liaison


My name is Kelli and I am the new Development/Child Services Liaison here at St. Joseph’s Indian School. Although I may be a little biased, I think my job is one of the best jobs around! I get to spend time with the Lakota students and Child Services staff here at St. Joseph’s while still being in touch with our donors through our Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram pages.

In one month, I have already gotten to participate in some pretty amazing things.

On the first day of school for the Lakota students, our Lakota Studies teachers held a smudging ceremony outside of Our Lady of the Sioux chapel. Smudging souls is something that has been done for generations in tribal cultures. Smudging helps to rid a person or area of unwanted energies that aren’t helpful as well as bless new areas, items or places so that a fresh start is felt in the heart.

It was a powerful experience to be present during the smudging ceremony. As students and staff walked through the smoke and washed it over their bodies, they emerged with focus, grace and excitement for the year ahead!

Our Lakota (Sioux) students stand behind the Air & Space Museum sign during their field trip.

Our 5th grade students enjoyed their time at the Air & Space Museum!

Shortly after the beginning of the school year, I was invited to participate in STARBASE activities with our 5th grade students. STARBASE is a program that combines science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) with exciting experiments and hands-on activities to motivate students to explore these subjects as they continue their education.

During one project, the students devised ways to protect an egg strapped into a model space shuttle before the shuttles were launched down a wire into a head-on collision. To culminate the week, the 5th graders took a field trip to Rapid City, South Dakota to visit the Air & Space Museum at Ellsworth Air Force Base. Although the air conditioner on our bus did not work on the way back home, a great time was had by all!

In mid-August, St. Joseph’s Indian School started their fall sports practices. I have been enjoying spending my evenings working on volleyball skills with our 6-8th grade girls. Our first game is in about 10 days!

On Tuesday, one of the 6th grade volleyball girls who has been having a little bit of a tough time adjusting asked me if I would join her during Thursday’s cross country practice. As a 6th grader, it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there, so of course I said yes! Since I am not a runner, I would greatly appreciate your prayers and good thoughts today after school!

Thank you for your generosity and support. You are truly making a difference in the lives of the Lakota students here in our care. They are becoming phenomenal young men and women because of YOU!

Kelli Swenson

Development/Child Services Liaison

At St. Joseph’s Indian School, we strive to education the Lakota (Sioux) children we work with for life – mind, body, heart and spirit. With a safe environment and enough to

eat, the students are ready to learn! As a fully accredited facility, St. Joseph’s meets all the academic standards put forth by the State of South Dakota. Because we are a private school, we also have the privilege of having Religion and Native American Studies part of our regular curriculum.

Nancy’s third graders won the trophy and pizza party this quarter.

Nancy’s third grade class had the highest GPA for first through third grades. They win the trophy for the quarter and a pizza party!

First quarter has ended for the Lakota boys and girls, so school is in full swing!

Earlier this week, we held awards assemblies honoring those students who made the honor roll as well as those who had perfect attendance.  We also introduced our traveling academic trophies. The trophy will now be part of the awards ceremony honoring the class with the highest collective grade point average. Our first winners were Brock’s 5th grade and Nancy’s 3rd grade; the classes also get a pizza party to go with their trophy.

Traveling trophies will now be awarded to the class with the highest collective grade point average.

St. Joseph’s new Academic Traveling Trophies.

This was an idea borrowed from St. Joseph’s high school program. The high school program awards the trophy by home rather than class, but still recognizes the highest cumulative GPA and fewest missing assignments. We have five high school homes at St. Joseph’s, and our students attend Chamberlain Public High School

In addition to recognizing academic achievements, we have an Acalympics team. Acalympics is an academic challenge in which students answer questions across the curriculum spectrum.  St. Joseph’s students have taken part in several of these over the past few years. Recently, our team hosted teams from Pierre and White River.

Brock’s fifth graders won the trophy and pizza party this quarter.

Brock’s fifth grade class had the highest GPA for fourth through sixth grades. They win the trophy for the quarter and a pizza party!

Congratulations to all the teams! Pierre came in first, White River second and St. Joseph’s team took third.

These are just a few of the things we do at St. Joseph’s to educate the Lakota children for life – mind, body, heart and spirit. Pilamayathank you – for being such an important part of our mission!


Fr. Anthony Kluckman, SCJ


Clare, St. Joseph's Director of Pastoral Care and Native American Studies

Clare, St. Joseph’s Director of Pastoral Care and Native American Studies

Good afternoon! I am Clare, St. Joseph’s Director of Pastoral Care and Native American Studies.

Spirituality is an important part of our mission at St. Joseph’s Indian School: to educate for life – mind, body, heart and spirit.

Last week, you read LaRayne’s blog post about smudging. In addition to traditional Lakota ceremonies, we provide our students with opportunities to learn about the Catholic faith and, if their families choose, to be baptized.

It’s important to note that students are not required to be Catholic to attend St. Joseph’s, though more than half of them are. When students are enrolled at St. Joseph’s, I interview their parents or guardians to make certain that instruction in the Catholic faith is their wish for their children, and I am in regular communication with them throughout the process.

Many families express gratitude that we can provide this faith dimension for their children. At home, they often live more than 30 miles from the nearest Catholic parish (many lack transportation) and are unable to provide this education for their children.

St. Joseph’s students and their families decide if they want to be baptized or receive Communion.

The Lakota children who chose to be baptized received candles lit from the “Christ light” and were instructed to keep the flame of faith burning brightly throughout their lives.

When we work with children to join the Catholic faith, we use a year-long process (at least) that really helps them to discern what faith means in their lives. We are careful that we are not “doing something to” them, but rather they are “choosing to do something.”

Last spring, we celebrated the initiation of 16 students into the Catholic faith, and four other students joined us at the Eucharistic table for the first time. It was a joy-filled experience, and one of our houseparents remarked that it seemed even more so than previous years.

These 20 students, grades 1 through 5, brought such enthusiasm to the day. “Enthusiasm” means to be filled with God. In their bright smiles, eagerness to come to the water and be sealed with the Spirit and desire to share in the Eucharist, God was indeed visible.

I remember one special moment very clearly: I could see down the row of children who had just received the candles lit from the “Christ light.” They had been instructed to keep the flame of faith burning brightly throughout their lives. The flames danced and were mirrored in their eyes… I prayed that it would always be so.

Though their faces were bright from water, oil and candlelight, I am confident that they shone more completely because of the inner light of faith enkindled in them. What a treasured journey it is to travel alongside of them!


The Lakota students and their parent or guardian decide if they want to be baptized or receive Communion.

Last spring, 20 Lakota (Sioux) students chose to be baptized or receive the Eucharist.

Good afternoon! I am LaRayne, St. Joseph’s Native American Studies teacher.

Runners lead the Dakota 38 Memorial riders for the first 10 miles.

“Freedom Runners” ran from the starting point in Lower Brule across the Missouri River Fort Thompson, South Dakota – approximately 10 miles.

Before Christmas break, St. Joseph’s seventh and eighth grade classes learned about the Dakota 38+2 Memorial Ride – what it is for, why it is done and what we could do to help. These thoughts spilled over into campus-wide education, sharing, and giving from the hearts of our students and staff.

The Dakota 38+2 Memorial Ride commemorates the 38 Dakota (Sioux) warriors who were hung in Mankato, Minnesota, following the Dakota War of 1862 – the largest mass hanging in our nation’s history. Two more warriors were hung later, in relation to the same conflict. The ride of reconciliation was inspired by one man’s vision to heal the brokenness between cultures.

Two of St. Joseph’s family service counselors, Scott and Rob, brought in riders to speak to our older students and showed the movie about the Dakota 38+2 (the link to YouTube is at the end of this post).

Students discussed, questioned, learned and reflected on different aspects of this historical event, which created motivation to support the riders financially. The students set out to raise money to help defray the costs of food and shelter

Riders on horseback journeyed from Lower Brule to Mankato, South Dakota for the Dakota 38 Memorial Ride.

The riders participating in the 2013 Dakota 38 Memorial Ride.

for riders and horses, as well as occasional police escorts on busy roads between Lower Brule, South Dakota and Mankato, Minnesota.

Out of respect for our donors, we wanted this money to come from our personal pockets – not from the generous gifts of those who support St. Joseph’s.  With the help of students and staff, our efforts raised more than $1,200 from a penny war, a raffle, “Jeans Because” money and a soup and salad lunch for staff campus-wide. It was great to see the different acts of generosity and downright competitions that came alive at St. Joseph’s Indian School to support this cause!

Our littlest children (first, second and third graders) brought in little bags of coins to add to their pickle jar for the penny war.  Staff members could add coins to any age group, and this is where the competition began.  During the last minutes of the penny war, it was evident that the staff was just as competitive as the kids in wanting to win the penny war and give to a great cause!

St. Joseph’s students and staff were at the send off on December 10, 2013.

St. Joseph’s seventh and eighth graders, along with several staff, attended the send off ceremony for the Dakota 38 Memorial Ride.

The purpose behind teaching this historical event to our students is to help them understand the events of the past and how they are linked to their ancestors.  Because we want our students to understand who they are, they must learn and understand where they come from. This is just one example.

The culmination in learning about the Dakota 38+2 was to be a part of the send off ceremony for the riders who departed from Lower Brule, South Dakota on December 10. Taking full advantage of the opportunity, we made this day a class field trip for the seventh and eighth graders.

Several adults accompanied 38 students for this great day.  We were honored to be a part of smudging, singing, honoring, listening, praying and building.

Our Lakota students built relationships with one another.  They built relationships with other communities, people, youth, Lakota leaders, other adults and the horse culture.

We were honored to be in the presence of Arvol Looking Horse, the 19th generation pipe carrier of our sacred cannunpapipe – blessed with prayer while a female elder and several male singers sang prayer and horse songs for the ceremony.

We had four young men from St. Joseph’s take advantage of running a few miles with other representatives from Lower Brule and Crow Creek to serve as runners for freedom.  Next year, we hope to have many of our students and staff help send our Dakota 38+2 horse riders off by running with the pack.

As staff, we hope this day will live in the memories and lives of these kids for years to come.  In the meantime, we will do our part to honor who we are and where we are going in mind, body, heart and spirit.

Learn more about the Dakota 38 by watching the trailer for the documentary on YouTube.

Hi again!  My name is Claire, and I am a houseparent in the high school program. I’m excited to be back, starting my fifth year here at St. Joseph’s Indian School. This week is all-staff orientation.  Those of us that have been gone part of the summer rejoin our hard-working year-round colleagues for a week of training, refreshers and refocusing.  This can be pretty exciting, especially when we all arrive in chapel on Monday morning and someone holds up a “free hugs” sign.  Woo hoo!

We usually start off with smudging—the Lakota tradition of burning sage—which is a symbolic cleansing of our minds, hearts and bodies with the smoke.  This sets a prayerful space and atmosphere for our work together in the upcoming year.

Our orientation theme this year was “Nourishing Mind, Body, Heart and Spirit.”

How cool is that?

After all, we are not just about teaching reading, writing and arithmetic.  Our goal is to prepare kids for life outside of St. Joseph’s, so they can be strengthened by relationships, faith, a sense of culture and history, and skills for living.  In order to do that, we have to bring our whole selves into the equation—which is why we start the year with prayer, sage, free hugs and even some darn good bread which the Pastoral Care staff handed out.

A lot of this week is about remembering our mission, and focusing on what we hope to accomplish in the upcoming year.  For us houseparents, one challenge is to bring the oyate values outlined in our Circle of Courage into our daily routines.  Those values are: Belonging, Independence, Mastery and Generosity.

We all agree that we do a great job at building a sense of belonging.  We are very good at building relationships with our kids, their families and with each other.  We are turning our attention to other areas where we are not so strong.  Sometimes, in our efforts to build relationships, we end up doing too much for our kids, to the detriment of their sense of mastery, independence and generosity.  We had some serious and thoughtful discussions on how and where we can work on these areas.

Not all of orientation is fun, I will admit.  Our newly hired staff have already completed a full week of training, and their heads are about to explode with facts, figures, rules and guidelines.

Veteran staff members groan a bit when we get to the part that we have heard every year.  Over and over and over.  For those of you who are uninitiated in the joys of orientation, let me sum up Day Two as briefly as possible:

  Rule #1:  Treat your co-workers with respect.  Play Nice.

Rule #2:  If you make a mess, please clean it up.

Rule #3:  If the mess involves blood or other body fluids, use gloves.

Rule #4:  If the mess is on fire, call 911.

Rule #5:  If you can’t seem to follow Rule #1, make SURE you follow Rules #2-5.

I think I can manage that!

Thank you for continuing to hold the kids and staff at St.  Joseph’s in your prayers as we kick off the 2012-2013 school year.  So far, we’re off to a good start.




Fifteen of our child services staff, including houseparents, teachers and even Fr. Anthony our chaplain, have been taking part in 40 hours of training in LSCI (Life Space Crisis Intervention). This approach helps you to take a stressful event as when a student is acting out or shutting down, and use it as a chance to get to the core of what is troubling them. It takes both patience and practice to make this work, but we have been encouraged by the results. Having some common training also gives our staff a more consistent common approach to working with our students.

This afternoon I traveled west, where Robert Gruss was ordained as the new bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Rapid City. Last night, a prayer service was held at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral, but mass today was held in the Civic Center Arena to allow the participation of more people.  The arena is usually reserved for basketball games, concerts and rodeos, but a wonderful spirit of prayer filled that stands.

A high percentage of the West River Catholics are Lakota, since five Indian R eservations are in the diocese. Lakota deacons and their wives offered a ceremonial smudging to cleanse the arena and prepare our hearts for the ceremony to follow. When the bishop elect lay prostrate in prayer, it was upon a beautiful star quilt given to him by students from Red Cloud Indian School.

The three-hour drive to the Black Hills was interesting because I picked up a radio broadcast from Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. US Attorney General Eric Holder was there on the first anniversary of the Indian Law and Order Act. He is especially concerned about trying to reverse the trend of unsolved and unpunished crimes of violence against Native American women. One elder gave testimony about the economic struggles many people face. He spoke of the harsh choices families face – do you take your child to the doctor, buy diapers for the babies or hamburger to feed a household of 14 hungry people?

This evening I stopped in a store to pick up a few things and ran into Erin, who will be one of our seniors next year. She just completed her third 6 week summer course in the High School High Scholar (HS)2 Program in Aspen Colorado. They provide an accelerated learning environment in mathematics and sciences for students traditionally underrepresented in these fields. I was pleased to hear Erin handled the calculus and physics well, and had a good summer. I’ll be glad when she and the others return to St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus in a couple of weeks.