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First Wičhóni Wašte "The Summit" Retreat Provides Opportunity for Reflection for St. Joseph's Indian School Students

by Clare Willrodt, Director of Communication and Outreach for St. Joseph's Indian School


(Chamberlain, S.D.) – Sunday, April 24, was the opportunity for St. Joseph’s Indian School High School Program juniors and seniors to visit a sacred site to reflect on their lives. They embarked on the first-ever Wičhóni Wašte (Good Life) Retreat for their grade level. (The freshmen and sophomores visited the Badlands last fall for a similar age-appropriate opportunity.)

The retreat day, called “The Summit” for juniors and seniors, came about after Mission Integration Director Joe Tyrell listened to student feedback and consulted with Mount Marty University and the University of Notre Dame regarding similar experiences those schools provide.

The culturally based experience took a group of seven juniors and seniors to Western South Dakota for the day. Following Sunday Mass at St. Isaac Jogues in Rapid City, the group traveled to Bear Butte, where they made prayer ties and set out to hike the route to “the summit.” During the windless 51-minute ascent, they were invited to think about the future and the people who helped them reach this point in their lives. The 35-minute descent was an opportunity for humble reflection on what new beginnings looked like when they were younger and how the coming year will be a beginning experience.

Junior Zeke Skunk enjoyed Mass, which included smudge, a prayer for Black Elk’s canonization and the four directions prayer. “It was cool to see another church celebrate our culture,” Skunk said.

Junior Clarysia Cooke, grateful for the experience, noted, “It was a hard hike. I am glad I made it to the top.”

St. Joseph’s Indian School gratefully acknowledges the effort of our high school students to walk in a good way daily.

More than 220 Native American students in first through twelfth grade find hope and opportunity through our educational, counseling, and residential programs. Strengthened by spirituality and culture, St. Joseph’s Indian School transforms lives—mind, body, heart and spirit—every day. Visit us at and

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