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.

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