(Chamberlain, S.D.) – Weather concerns enlisted Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel to become the venue for fourteen graduates of St. Joseph’s Indian School’s elementary program on May 28. The outdoor, socially distanced, family-only celebration moved indoors, embodying the resilience and adaptability of this school year.
The school acknowledged four nurses – Savannah Weddell Aumau (1998-2006), Andrea Archambeau (2001-2010), Mary Jo Lends His Horse Dupris (1991-1997) and D’Kera Grassrope (2001-2012) -- as Distinguished Alumni this year. Not only are they role models in their tenacious pursuit of education and career, but also they are beacons of hope for their work and witness during this pandemic year. Each is also a symbol of the strength and honor of their culture tradition.
On hand to share his personal wisdom, Sicangu Lakota Senate Minority Leader Troy Heinert urged students, “The first thing I wish I would have done, I wish I would have learned my language. Speak it in public and speak it often. That is something that can never be taken away. And it’s really going to be up to you to carry our language on.”
Heinert represents South Dakota District 26, consisting of Brule, Buffalo, Jones, Lyman, Millette and Todd Counties. Heinert, who began his career as an elementary school teacher, was in his element for the occasion. He challenged the students with the words of Crazy Horse. “Many years ago, Chief Crazy Horse at the Battle of Little Big Horn said ’Tȟokála Pȟayáta Iyúpo.’ It means strong hearts to the front.
He continued, “You are the strong hearts. You are the next generation that is going to carry us forward. And we need you. And we want you to do this with pride and with honor. Because without you, we would be forgotten. It’s a big responsibility, but I know you have it in your heart. You can do this. We will help you.”
Graduates include Brianna Drapeau, Neleigh Driving Hawk, Leslie Hanson, Jacob Herron, Landon Hurley, William Jandreau, Lars Lind II, Kenyon McCloskey, DeVarrell Mills, Richard Quigley, Angelina Roubideaux, Aiden Sazue, Loren Sazue and Mersayis Selwyn. St. Joseph’s accepted all of the graduates into its high school program, which involves living on campus and attending Chamberlain High School.
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.