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St. Joseph’s Students Homeward Bound with Christmas Treasure

By: Clare Willrodt, St. Joseph's Indian School

 Student Coordinator Jennie Schilling and fifth-grader Deveah Stracqualursi show off their handiwork.

(Chamberlain, S.D.) – Friday, December 17, was a merry-making scene at St. Joseph’s Indian School as students climbed into family vehicles or boarded holiday-break-transportation buses, each with a bag of gifts for home slung over their backs like aspiring Santas. Their plunder resulted from a special event that takes place yearly at the school.

One magical Saturday each December, staff at the school transform a conference room into Santa’s workshop, fellow employees become elves, and there is even a visit from Santa himself. The St. Joseph’s Annual Christmas Store allows students to select and wrap gifts to take back to their families over Christmas break.

In the weeks prior, St. Joseph’s Depot and Thrift Store sets up tables with a selection of gifts. Houseparents bring students to “shop” for gifts for their loved ones – a teddy bear for little sister, a coat for a cousin, a blanket for uŋcí (grandma). It’s a tradition that fills the students with joy that travels beyond campus walls. “Watching them shop is enjoyable because you can tell they are excited to be able to bring gifts to the people back home whom they miss,” said Heather Konechne, Disbursement and Donation supervisor.

Then, when the special Saturday arrives, students head to the Christmas Store to select wrapping paper and bows to dress up their gifts. A staff of elves supports the effort, and before long, each student is equipped to bring their sack of presents back home.

“I got my grandma a quilt. You want to see it?” said sixth-grader Emilee Black Spotted Horse displaying a flowery black and purple quilt. “She’s going to be so excited.”

Another student with a large family lined gift after gift upon the wrapping table. The present she most looks forward to giving is for her best friend. “That’s my dad. He is also my best friend,” said fifth-grader Trinity Kills Crow. Asked what she chose for him, she smiled and said, “It’s a secret.”

Students departed campus with excitement anticipating their family Christmas celebrations when they can surprise their loved ones through the act of gift-giving.

The staff at St. Joseph’s Indian School sends best wishes to all of our thióšpaye and looks forward to the New Year when we welcome students back to 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. Visit us at www.sjiskids.org and www.stjo.org.

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