Hi, my name is April and I would like to say Cante’ Waste’ Nape ciyuzapi Ksto/lo – I greet you with a warm heart and handshake.

April, Family/Student Care Specialist

April, Family/Student Care Specialist

I work at St. Joseph Indian School and I am the Family/Student Care Specialist. I have the opportunity to work with our little free spirits here at St. Joseph’s and I’m grateful for each day – I love working with each and every one of them! In June, I will have been here for nine years and it just keeps getting better.

There are so many positive programs at St. Joseph’s; I am very thankful for all the support that St. Joseph’s has for families and staff members, so we can provide the best support for the children. There are so many opportunities for our students, even after graduation when they go on to college. I enjoy reading the messages we get from the Alumni Coordinator, sharing where former students are going to college and how they are doing. I cannot get over how much help and support is given to all!

St. Joseph’s annual powwow is one of many cultural elements to the programs we provide for the Lakota children.

Programs for St. Joseph’s students encompass everything from powwow and education about the Lakota (Sioux) culture to cooking and living independently.

My heart feels good when there is always so much good news. As parents and guardians continue to participate in our family programs, they become stronger. They themselves become aware of how strong they can be and how supportive they are for their children at St. Joseph’s. We are grateful for the opportunity to work side by side with these families.

I say Wopida Tankamany thanks – for your time in reading my blog post! So many good thoughts and feelings arise as I read blog posts from other staff members. Please know that you too share with us in a very special way, through your comments, encouragement and prayers.

So, with this being said, Mitaku oyasin (all my relatives) I will share with you again someday soon.


Family/Student Care Specialist

Cante’ Waste’ Nape Ciyuzapi Ksto/loI greet you with a warm and heartfelt handshake!

April works with St. Joseph's students and families.

April works with St. Joseph’s students and families.

My name is April, and I am an enrolled member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe. My Indian name is Nagi Wi, which means Spirit Woman. My given name at birth is April. My name was given to me by a nun who helped deliver me. My St. Joseph’s name is Unci, which means grandma – I feel so honored to be their grandma! I have been here at St. Joes for eight-and-a-half years and love working with the children and their families.

My new title is Family/Student Care Specialist. I have the opportunity to get to know our new students more by meeting with them individually throughout the year to establish a bond. During our time together, students come to my office and write letters, color or draw and take pictures, which we send home to their families. We also make calls to their families. We want students to look at St. Joseph’s Indian School as their second home, and we want them to feel comfortable. We understand they will get lonesome, and that’s okay. We want to work through that and continue to do the best we can to care for the whole child – mind, body, heart and spirit.

As Family/Student Care Specialist at St. Joseph’s, April is involved in many activities on campus.

April helps the Lakota boys and girls with arts and crafts to send home to their families.

Sometimes, students go home for the weekend and see their pictures and letters hanging on the fridge at home. This makes them so happy! They come to my office and tell me, “Guess what Unci! My mom has my picture we sent!” To see that little sparkle in their eyes is so heart-warming!

I have a saying that was given to me, and I do my best to go by this everyday as I walk in a good way with the children: Believe in yourself and your feelings. Trust yourself to do what your heart is guiding you to do. Your intuition is powerful. Trust it.

Good afternoon!

April works with St. Joseph's students and families.

April works with St. Joseph’s students and families.

My name is April and I greet you with a warm and hearty handshake. I work with our Lakota families at St. Joseph’s, along with many other roles. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you about why I am at St. Joseph’s Indian School. I guess I can start by sharing a quote from our Elders. They say everything happens for a reason and when one door closes, another opens.

A long time ago … and I mean a long time ago… when my children were playing basketball and football, I would come to St. Joseph’s for their games. The first time we drove into campus, I was so impressed. The first thought that entered my mind was I would love to work here.

As time went on and my children grew up, there was no reason for me to visit anymore until I learned of my grandchildren who came to school here. I was able to come and get them on a weekend. They would tell us about St. Joseph’s and share that they liked it here, especially because there was a swimming pool! J

Time went on and I began my journey of healing back in 1986. Little did I know at that time, I needed to do what the little sacred spirits at St. Joseph’s are doing today… I wanted to learn who I really was and about my culture. So I decided to go to treatment.

Things were not good and I wanted to know why I was making so many wrong choices. With the help of my Hunka relatives (adopted through a traditional Lakota ceremony), Mr. Gene Thin Elk and Rick Thomas, I was able to start building a foundation for myself and learned how to make some positive choices.

I thank the Grandfathers every day for giving me a second chance.

This time I would show my children a clean and sober mommy. There were many steps I needed to take to do just that. I have been alcohol and drug free for 28 years.

Through the years, I decided I wanted to help my relatives in a good way, the best way I knew how. I felt so good on the inside knowing that I had nothing to hide and that I had a voice in a good way, to share with others that it’s okay to cry and to laugh.

April chaperoned St. Joseph’s students on a trip to learn more about their Native American heritage.

April and the Lakota (Sioux) students during their cultural trip.

The Elders say that tears and laughter are the two best medicines that we have. I strongly believe that.

Our Elders also say that each one of us are gifted. Maybe we don’t know yet what that gift is, but others will see it and tell us because of the way we choose to walk.

I was raised as a strong Catholic; my parents had us in church every Sunday. And God Bless my mom who shared with me and my siblings that it is ok to carry a Bible in one hand and the Canupapipe – in the other. Never forget where you come from and don’t ever disrespect others, she said.

My mom was a great teacher, along with my dad. Both are now in the Spirit World.

As a result of all this, I strongly believe I was guided here to help our little Native Spirits feel comfortable and re-learn that it’s ok to talk with another person – our clergy, counselors, houseparents, teachers or mentors. Each child is different and come with their own little stories that we can learn from together and help them to the best of our ability.

That is why I am here.

Maybe I can also be a grandma they don’t have, or to model the grandma (Elder), and share what I have learned through the years before I came here. I hope we can all keep learning together.

Wopida tankamany thanks,


Good afternoon and Happy New Year!

April works with the Lakota children on drug and alcohol prevention.

April has worked with the Lakota children at St. Joseph’s for seven years.

My name is April and I have been an employee at St. Joseph’s Indian School for seven years. I am a Level II Alcohol and Drug Counselor and have been in the field for 24 years.  I am an enrolled member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe from Fort Thompson, South Dakota.

When I first started at St. Joseph’s, I worked with families and provided support for our Family Service Counselors in different ways. I have also worked with the FAST program. This year we are beginning the search for a new family program that will benefit the students we work with.

But I do lots of other things too!

  • I help with the cultural trip in May for students moving from seventh to eighth grades. We set out from Chamberlain and make our way to Lame Deere, Montana, with several stops along the way. This is a wonderful, fun, educational trip not only for the students, but for staff as well. I think the most exciting part for the students is climbing Bear Butte.
  • I have had the opportunity to be part of our “Healing Camp” held each March. This daylong activity is for students who have lost a family member. It helps begin the healing process, not only for our students, but staff who participate as well. It touches my heart to know that we are working as a team and getting to know each other more and more. I feel that, with each new year, I am building stronger friendships and professional relationships with each and every person who crosses my path on my every day walk of life.
  • My newest task is helping with the Lakota Circle of Hope (LCH), which is a drug and alcohol prevention curriculum. I enjoy working on it with the little free spirits in third and fourth grades.  The activities focus on the critical need for drug and alcohol prevention lessons targeted at children in second through fifth grades. The program specifically targets Native American children by teaching prevention lessons through the use of Lakota/Dakota culture.
April and the girls get ready to climb Bear Butte.

Each year, April is part of the cultural trip for St. Joseph’s seventh graders moving into eighth grade.

I will always remember the first day I came to St. Joseph Indian School, and there was Fr. Steve offering a hug and welcoming me to St. Joseph’s tiyospayeextended family. It was very heartwarming and I always will hold this memory close to my cante’heart.

I would like to tell everyone at St. Joseph’s Indian School wopila/wopida tankamany thanks – for all lessons I have learned while working here and all the support I have received as part of this tiyospaye!

With a warm and hearty handshake,


This past mid-term, five of our boys were on the honor roll and two were very close, which is awesome for freshman.  We call that success!!

This past mid-term, five of our boys were on the honor roll and two were very close, which is awesome for freshman. We call that success!!

Hey everyone, this is Mike and April from the Carola Home.

This time of year our boys are balancing school and athletics as well as preparing to go home for the holidays. This can be an overwhelming time for all the boys, but especially the freshman.

Freshmen have already been adjusting to new houseparents, new school, new curriculum and new friends. Our four Juniors have had a couple of years to learn what works for them to succeed in all areas.  However, our three Freshmen still have a lot to learn and this is usually the hardest time of their high school years.

Thankfully, our Juniors have taken our Freshmen under their wings and given them advice on how to deal with homework – number one being do not get behind with missing assignments – classes and teachers, where to go and who you may have to be extra nice to. 🙂 And of course advice on their houseparents – don’t try that, they won’t let you get away with this, handle your business and they won’t make it theirs.

Each student has their own ways to succeed and all seven of our boys are doing just that, succeeding. With all that high school life brings to offer our boys, they are doing an amazing job keeping up with it all.

In our eyes my boys are all number one!!!!

In our eyes my boys are all number one!!!!

St. Joseph’s gives the boys a lot of support with the learning center, which is run by our High School Academic Advisor, Steve. Steve works with Chamberlain High School to help them with their homework.  Our Transitional Specialist, Pam, helps our Juniors with upcoming college trips and helps them plan for the future after St. Joseph’s.

Basketball season has started with Errol, Cody, William and Kyle playing for the Chamberlain Cubs. Our home will be attending many games in the next couple of months to support their fellow classmates.

Shawn is involved in CHS’s Wrestling Team.  We also have one student Dean, who has been actively preparing for the past several weeks to attend LNI (the Lakota Nation Invitational), to participate in the Knowledge Bowl Competition. Trey, one of our Freshmen, is not in any sports. He thought it would be best to give all his focus on his schoolwork, so he can continue his streak of no missing assignments and A honor roll.

The Carola Home won the high school trophy for with least missing assignments!!

The Carola Home won the high school trophy for with least missing assignments!!

Working hard and having fun!

Hello again from the Carola Home! A new year has begun and our boys are doing a wonderful job with all they have to do. This year we have four Juniors and three Freshman boys in our home. They have worked hard with school work, homework, tutoring, football, other activities and home responsibilities.

First quarter we had five boys make the honor roll and two who were just short of the honor roll, giving our home a GPA of 3.32. Besides studying hard, part of their success is not getting behind in their school work and not having many missing assignments.

The boys had a great time at Wild Water West!

The boys had a great time at Wild Water West!

With all the hard work they put in so far, they really enjoy having some downtime. With donors helping provided for St. Joseph’s Indian School, each home has a budget that they go by. Part of this budget goes to home trips. Home trips are a great time to relax and have fun and build relationships. At the beginning of the year, our home went to LifeLight Music Festival and Wild Water West. They had a great time camping and enjoying some wonderful music, go carts, going down the water slides and swimming in the wave pool.

With funds for a trip already spent, the boys had to come up with a way to make money. Our boys decided to do a car wash to raise funds for another home trip.

The car wash was a great success.

The car wash was a great success.

The boys used a no school day for the car wash. They asked for a freewill donation to support their home trip. They washed many cars and they spent all day with such a positive attitude and worked very hard. They made enough money for the trip – hiking at Harney Peak, shopping at the Rushmore Mall, and dinner and movies in Rapid City.

The boys are always saying “thanks for dinner” and while we were out at the restaurant they said, “Thanks for dinner.” We reminded them that they earned this themselves and thanked them for dinner.

They were very proud and so were we. They also realized how working hard can pay off.

Big smiles from the Carola Home.

Big smiles from the Carola Home.

Hello again from the Carola Home. This is a busy time of year for our high school students wrapping up the last quarter of the school year while preparing for next year and beyond. The boys and girls must balance their classes, sports, donor luncheon trips, college trips, jobs and spending time with their families and home. This can overwhelm some of our students and they may begin to struggle with keeping up with their homework and grades.

One of our freshman boys was selected to attend the Cultural festival later this month. Four of our boys are attending the college trip to Southeast Tech. Three of our boys were selected to go on the upcoming donor luncheon trips to Oklahoma City and New England. Being selected for things like this encourages our students and proves to them that they can make it – that they can become a Junior, a Senior and a Graduate!!

A couple of St. Joseph's Indian School's kids on the honor roll.

These boys have worked hard at maintaining honor roll all year.

This year our Carola boys have done an amazing job. Most of our 8 sophomores and two freshmen have seen their grades only rise. Some have been on the honor roll all year, while others have come closer than ever before. One started the year with a GPA below 2.0 and he may make the honor roll this time. Yah!!!

This week the 1st -8th grade homes at St. Joseph’s are on their Spring Break, leaving our Chamberlain high school students seeing what real life is like. In the real world, life goes on even when you can’t be included because you must work or go to school.

The boys love going to the Dude Ranch.

Campfire, hot dogs, Missouri River and smores. The boys were in heaven!

While the younger homes are away, however, the older kids do play. We took our boys to the Dude Ranch (a local spot that offers public access to the Missouri River), where they built a campfire and cooked hotdogs. We also invited the other homes to come out and share SMORES…YUM!

The rest of the week is all about basketball. The high school homes are celebrating the Chamberlain Cubs going to the state basketball tournament in Sioux Falls. Thanks to donor support, the homes are able to go to the State championship games to support their team. GO CUBS!!!

Chamberlain Cubs boys basketball team.

Good luck Cubs!

The St. Joseph’s High School students are traveling to Sioux Falls for the State Basketball Tournament to support their Chamberlain Cubs basketball team.

#24 is the senior and #2 is the junior forward injured in the first game of the district tourney, both from St. Joseph’s Indian School and both mentioned here in Claire’s blog.

Your friend April,
St. Joseph’s Indian School houseparent

The Christmas tree and decorations are put away.

The New Year’s resolutions have been made.

A group shot of the Carola Home on their skiing trip.

The boys had so much fun on their home trip to the Black Hills!

Now it’s time to get cracking with those books and getting through second semester. You would think the fun and exciting times would be over. That is not the case. This time of year for many homes here at St. Joseph’s begins with what we call the home trip.

Every year, each home on campus takes a home trip. Home trips are a wonderful time to relax and enjoy time together as a home without the stresses of homework, schedules and responsibilities. It’s a time to step out of the home routines and just be ourselves. It’s a time to get to know one another better and build friendships and relationships.

Two boys posing for a picture while on the slopes.

Derrik and Tommy stop for a picture while skiing.

We took our home trip this past weekend. The adventure took us to Terry Peak in Lead, South Dakota. This is the second year our home has made this trip. The boys enjoyed it so much last year that they voted to do it again this year. The boys have looked forward to this trip all year and now they have the memories.

We stayed in the beautiful Buffalo Trail Lodge. This is where the boys played in the snow, where they laughed at times, played games and watched movies.

The boys spent most of the two days skiing while others did snowboarding.

The boys had a lot of fun. They were very appreciative that donors help provide such an amazing experience. As one of the boys stated, “You guys are spoiling us!”