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

LaRayne, St. Joseph’s Native American Studies teacher

Good morning! My name is LaRayne.

I am so pleased to share that we have recently added a part time seamstress to our staff at St. Joseph’s Indian School!

Bonnie began mending and creating with her talent in October.

We have many outfits that aren’t complete—they might be missing a cape, drops, shawl, or a matching skirt and leggings.

Bonnie puts her talented, magic hands to work and creates full outfits and pieces that make the regalia highly sought after for our powwow dancers! She has been beautifying our outfits for both the boys and the girls.

One of the outfits Bonnie blessed with her talents was a jingle dress that was donated by one of our students, LaShawn, and her grandma. This type of dress includes ornamentation with multiple rows of metal cones that create a jingling sound as the dancer moves.

LaShawn’s grandma made the dress for her when she was a young dancer. Having outgrown it, LaShawn wanted to donate it to our regalia collection so that another energetic girl could continue making music with the dress.

1500324The dress was missing matching leggings, so Bonnie showed LaShawn the steps in making a set to match. LaShawn was amazed at the work that went into a pair of leggings!

Now that the outfit is complete, a young St. Joseph’s Indian School student will be able to dance as her ancestors have done for years.

We look forward to seeing Bonnie’s amazing work showcased at our 40th Annual Powwow on September 17, 2016.

We hope you can join us this year! Visit for more information.


LaRayne is St. Joseph's Native American Studies teacher.Hello! My name is LaRayne. I teach Native American Studies alongside my co-teacher, Allen.

I want to take a minute to tell you all about our recent language challenges!

We had two Lakota/Dakota language challenges during the month of February. They were both fun, rewarding and confidence-building for all the students involved.

We had rendezvous challenges with the reservation school that borders our community, Crow Creek Elementary. We traveled there once, and they visited us once. Teachers from each school worked together to prepare the students in specific areas of food, family, days of the week, seasons, numbers, colors, school terms, animals and stages of life.

Each school came up with two questions from each category and the students went to work studying.

Lakota Language Challenge.jpgBoth challenge meetings came down to the wire, and we had to use a tie-breaker question at the end to decide the winner. It was a split on wins. We won at home, and they also won on their own turf!


Anpetu waste’! LaRayne imaciyapi ksto! Good Day, LaRayne is my name!

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

LaRayne, St. Joseph’s Native American Studies teacher

We are in our second week of my 14th day camp at St. Joseph’s Indian School! I remember those overwhelming, exciting feeling from the very first year because I still get them today.

Part of the overwhelming feeling comes from wanting to give the students who come for the Rising Eagle Day Camp a sense of who they are as members of their tribe or members of the Oceti Sakowin Oyate (People of the Seven Council Fires). My purpose is to share my passion of being proud of who we are as Lakota/Dakota/Nakota persons. I try to do this in various ways.

This year I will be pulling from my co-teacher, Allen, for added wisdom and knowledge in traditional Lakota games. Allen brings a plethora of knowledge in this area. We will play the modified version of the moccasin, plum pit, bingo and hand games with our day students. We play with items they can find around the house so that when they are home with friends and family, they can recreate the games with pencils, pens, beads, rocks, sticks or anything their creative minds can find and use.

Medicinal plants like sage are also used in ceremonies.

Day camp students learn about medicinal and ceremonial plants like sage.

We are going to plan a two-day focus around the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center and the life-sized tipi that is set up in front, welcoming visitors. The kids will take a tour of the museum as well as the alumni and historical center – Tokéya uŋkí nájiŋpi (We Stood Here in the Beginning) – in order to get a sense of why St. Joseph’s is important to so many people. A guest speaker will share some hands-on artifacts that are part of the tipi, so the day camp kids will grasp a sense of what it was like to live “back in the tipi days.”

Dancing has always been a part of every culture. We will also learn some dances that pertain to friendship and celebrating for fun rather than focusing on the powwow or other ceremonial dances.

We also try to tie in how our entire environment was a part of daily life. This year we will focus on making teas for medicinal use

Each Native American Studies class at day camp ends with a story.

With each day, LaRayne finds a story or a book that parallels the day’s lesson.

out of local plants and also how the how the stars tell us about each day, week, month and year. We will talk about how they mirror earth and our own aura.

With each day, I try to find a story or a book that parallels what we are discussing. This helps the kids to understand the importance of storytelling, reading books and how much fun it can be to share a book with someone of any age.

Lastly, we want to share a new movie that teaches our youth and communities about the Horse Nation. Many of our tribal leaders are working on bringing the “Horse Nation” back for healing reasons. We hope to be a catalyst in this process at St. Joseph’s Indian School Rising Eagle Day Camp.

Wopila tankamany thanks – for helping make day camp possible!


Native American Studies Teacher

Fr. Anthony would never boast or brag about himself, because that just isn’t him.

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

LaRayne, St. Joseph’s Native American Studies teacher

However, I can and I will.

Fr. Anthony (a.k.a. The Gold Coin Father) has a very special way to share his passion with our parish circle at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

Not only does Fr. Anthony make it a point to add Lakota language and other fine details to his work, but he has also found a unique way to reach St. Joseph’s students.

Mass is very much like a class. We open with prayer and a song or two for “grabbers.” A reading, reflection and biblical references are given. Once that is complete, the students will wiggle in their seats, sit up tall and be prepared for the reading given by Father Anthony.

Fr. Anthony rewards the Lakota children for questions answered correctly during Mass.

If you answer Fr. Anthony’s question correctly, something shiny may be coming your way.

Almost every child who is a veteran to a Fr. Anthony mass knows to listen closely; if you are lucky and your prayers are answered, something shiny may be coming your way. The kids know that during the homily, Fr. Anthony will toss a gold coin your way if you politely raise your hand and answer his questions correctly.

Students know questions are coming when they see him reach under his vestment into the gold coin pocket. Students ready themselves to give answers which, they hope, are attached to a golden coin.   The expressions on the faces of our Lakota, Dakota and Nakota children are fun to watch as they wait for Fr. Anthony to point in their direction, hopeful and excited.

When they are correct, they are wide-eyed as a gold coin is tossed their way and their knowledge is affirmed. After it is caught, the child usually rubs it, looks at it, peers at the rest of the congregation, smiles and rubs again before placing it in the safe pocket of a pressed pair of trousers or kept in the warm grip of a sweaty little hand.

One never knows when Father’s hand will stop diving into the pocket, but you can tell when the homily is finished. There are some slumped shoulders and anxious hearts hoping that the next week will be their chance to catch an answered prayer tossed by the Gold Coin Father.

LaRayne imaciyapi ksto hi, my name is LaRayne. I get to live out my passion of sharing Lakota culture in the classroom at St. Joseph’s

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

LaRayne, St. Joseph’s Native American Studies teacher

Indian School by teaching Native American Studies.

Recently, I was able to take 11 students from grades 2-8 to a gathering of our nations at the Lakota Nation Invitational Conference in Rapid City, South Dakota with my co-teacher, Allen, for a statewide Lakota hand games competition.

You might remember reading about LNI and St. Joseph’s Knowledge Bowl Team.

You are probably wondering what “hand games” are. I am told there are more than 50 different ways to play, but we played “Lakota” style for this tournament.

Two teams of up to 10 players sit directly across from each other. Each team has four wood pieces (called bones) to hide behind their back. One of the “bones” is marked with a line and is called the male. Each team also has eight sticks, which are used to keep score.

Lakota hand games teams have up to 10 players each.

Two teams of up to 10 players sit directly across from each other with four wood pieces (called bones) to hide behind their back.

Each team has a turn to have one of their players guess which hand the male bone is in. If they guess correctly, they take the bone from the other team. If they guess incorrectly, the guessing team gives up a stick.

The team hiding the bones uses movement, drumming and singing to distract the guesser on the opposing team and break his or her concentration. The first team to acquire ALL of the sticks is the winner. There are lots of detailed rules in addition to this, but I will keep it simple here.

There were 20 teams in the competition, and we played six games (the last three via the loser’s bracket) through the day to come out CHAMPIONS!

But wait, that isn’t the end!

We also were asked to be a part of the grand entry during the evening session of the basketball tournament that is held at the same time! We pinched ourselves to make sure we weren’t dreaming! After lunch, we stood on the gym floor in front of many of our oyate (nation) and listened to many honorings, speeches and names of student attendees.

Among the honored guests was Shoni Schimmel, the most popular WNBA player (according jersey purchases). The kids thought it was really neat to see her in person.

But wait!

While searching for some cotton candy, Aurelia and I stumbled upon the opportunity to have our picture taken with Shoni Schimmel! We gathered our team and set out to have our photo taken with the WNBA star!

And just because that wasn’t enough, the kids were presented with new coats designed for the winning team and 15 seconds of fame by being announced on television during the halftime awards ceremonies.

Needless to say, our students are more interested in hand games than ever!

Pilamaya – thank you,


St. Joseph’s hand games team took first place at LNI – congratulations everyone!

With their first place hand games victory, St. Joseph’s team got specially designed jackets, a plaque and were announced at half time.

Han, LaRayne imaciyapi. Hello, my name is LaRayne.

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

LaRayne, St. Joseph’s Native American Studies teacher

I am honored to teach Native American Studies classes at St. Joseph’s Indian School.  We recently had a Sunday Mass that incorporated Lakota elements, and it felt great!  It’s that indescribable feeling when you are centered in the soul and have “wolakota.”


It was the Feast of Christ the King, the end of the liturgical year in the Catholic Church. It didn’t feel like and end, but a new beginning. The service began with the beat of the drum by our student drum group, the Chalk Hill Singers. Members of our powwow royalty and fellow housemates, dressed in full regalia, danced up the aisle honoring the path of the Staff carried by our Eagle Staff Bearer, Joe. My feet couldn’t help but to tap the earth when the sticks made music with sound of our rawhide drum and the voices of our boys. The shawls flowed, the bells and cones rung and it felt like smiles were swelling in the hearts of all present.


The Chalk Hills Singers, St. Joseph’s drum group, were part of the Lakota Mass.

St. Joseph’s drum group, the Chalk Hills Singers, took part in the Lakota Mass.

A basket of prayers wrapped in red cloth, made by our students and staff, was carried and placed at the altar as an offering to honor those who have passed into the spirit world and those for whom we pray.


The opening prayer, the readings and the homily taught us about “Mitakuye Oyasin,” the belief that we are all related. In the reading, Mathew 25: Jesus said “Whatever you did for one of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” This parallels our Lakota ceremony of the Hunka, or making of a relative.  Once this sacred ceremony is done, you will have a bond to share all that you have. By treating all people just as you would Jesus or the Great Spirit, one will “do well because it is right.”


The best value a member of our tribes can possess is that of generosity. Sunday during Mass, the choir shared their musical talents by singing “Amazing Grace” in both Lakota and English. With the sounds of the students speaking the tongue of their ancestors from many years past, the congregation recited the Lord’s Prayer in Lakota. I could feel the confidence in the voices of the students praying loud and proud. Lots of compliments were shared and accepted after Mass from our staff and members of our community who came to join in our prayer.


After the Eucharistic Prayer, Father Anthony asked the Great Spirit to bless us with a great week and Thanksgiving holiday as the students traveled home to see family and friends. But, before the end, we sang birthday wishes to those celebrating this week in the Lakota version of “Happy Birthday.”


The service ended just as it began: The dancers (and those who couldn’t keep their feet from dancing to the beat of the drum) exited the sanctuary knowing that Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel bridges cultures spiritually in the lives of the families we serve at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

I was recently blessed to be able to take in this gathering of people from around South Dakota who share a common goal: we want to build a

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

LaRayne, St. Joseph’s Native American Studies teacher

“Bright Future in Our Schools.”

I learned so much during two days of meetings, meals and mingling! The sessions were interactive with technology, discussions and hands on activities and ideas to help teachers, administrators, vendors, community business leaders, students and parents from all walks of life.

I had several favorite sessions. One entailed hearing ideas from a teacher in our state who gets her students to write while they think they are in an art class. This same presenter shared her passion to teach because, in this generation, she was not taught about the indigenous people who were living on this land before her ancestors came across the ocean. What

Native American Studies, powwow dancing and more are part of our curriculum at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

All St. Joseph’s students take Native American Studies as part of our regular curriculum and have the opportunity to participate in powwow and other cultural activities.

she is doing can be done by any teacher in any state to help students to learn by indigenous practices and to really care about their own education.

Another favorite group was a program we are using called “Wolakota Project.” This program allows teachers from any school, including St. Joseph’s, to access video interviews on a website. This curriculum will be incorporated into our 1st -3rd grade classrooms, helping adults and students to understand cultural stories, ways and sensitivities to Oceti Sakowin Oyate (Seven Council Fires Nation).

Other sessions I soaked up will help not only with my daily classes but also with the planning and execution of our seventh grade cultural trip, which will be here again before we know it!

I was able to mingle with fellow allies through wonderful meals of buffalo stew and lots of wakalapi (coffee). Creating a network of people with whom to share ideas is always a strong part of the summit. I listened to school board members, parents, community leaders, Tribal leaders, higher education officers, students, professors and family members of students share their ideas, worries, solutions and works as well as personal motivation that keep us all loving what we do every day.

Sharing the culture of our people from the Seven Council Fires is what I have done for the past 12 years here at St. Joseph’s Indian School. It is motivating for me to see that the work we are striving for together is going to help fulfill not only my part in the mission here at St. Joseph’s, but also to build a “Bright Future in Our Schools” for all students.

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!


St. Joseph’s first grade class has been studying the tatanka bison/buffalo in Native American Studies class.  The students took this an opportunity to give,

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

LaRayne, St. Joseph’s Native American Studies teacher

share and educate others in our school community about what they learned.

After understanding that the tatanka can be referred to as a bison or a buffalo, the learning began and, hopefully, will never end.  Our objectives for this unit of curriculum are understanding the history of the animal, how their many body parts are used as well as the spiritual connection of the buffalo to our Lakota (Sioux) culture.

We read stories, manipulated bones, and inspected pieces of the hide, meat and pictures to understand this animal better.  The books Grandfather Buffalo and Buffalo Woman are two stories that are fun and exciting for the students.

The Lakota children can see a life-sized buffalo in one of the museum’s displays!

Sasha and Chante have a chance to see how big this mounted buffalo actually is.

We created our own buffalo by tearing small pieces of brown paper to look like the hair of the tatanka, and gluing the pieces on the shape of a buffalo.  We discuss where the bones come from in the buffalo skeleton as well as what they were used for.  It is fun to see the look on the students’ faces when they find out that the tail was used for ceremonial purposes as well as a fly swatter, or that hip bones were used for paintbrushes!

At St. Joseph’s Indian School, we are also blessed to be able to visit the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center, where we can see a life-sized buffalo mounted in a display.

To finish the learning unit, we made wasna, also called pemmican, to taste and share with some lucky teachers.  This year was the first year in my 12 years of teaching that ALL of the kids loved the taste of the mixture – they kept asking for more!


You will need:

  • 1 cup dried cranberries, raisins or other dried fruit (blueberries, chokecherries, etc.)
  • 1 cup ( 8 oz)  jerky or dried meat
  • Rock/mortar pestle or a modern day blender used to pound and combine ingredients

Place jerky into a blender and blend until shredded. Add dried fruit and blend again. Eat a small portion (1/8 of a cup) to get you through the day as a snack or as a spirit food.*

To make your own jerky:

Marinate thinly sliced raw meat for at least ½ to a full day before cooking or drying. Marinade can be any combination of oil and your favorite spices – salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic, cayenne pepper, Tabasco sauce, etc. You must have enough to coat all the meat. Allow the marinade mixture to set into the meat for 6-8 hours. 

Bake in the oven on a low setting  (250 degrees) for at least 2 hours until it is no longer moist and takes on a dry texture. Time will depend on size of meat pieces.

Our Lakota (Sioux) people ate this as a meal when they traveled.  It kept you energized and feeling full for most of the day during the “tipi days.”

*spirit food is offered or eaten during some ceremonies or as an offering to the spirits on a “spirit plate.”

The Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center is open to the public and is also a great learning tool for the Lakota children at St. Joseph’s Indian School!

LaRayne takes her Native American Studies classes to the Akta Lakota Museum for lessons.

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.

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