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Two Native Colleagues from St. Joseph's Receive National Honors

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

(Chamberlain, S.D.) – A sincere sense of self is the character trait shared by two St. Joseph’s Indian School colleagues that made them standouts to win national awards announced at the Coalition on Residential Excellence (CORE) Banquet in Mooseheart, Ill., Wednesday evening, October 13, 2021.

LaRayne Woster of Chamberlain, S.D., received the Catherine Hershey Award “Educator of the Year,” and Tayeden Seeking Land of Bad Nation on the Crow Creek Reservation was honored as Catherine Hershey “Student of the Year.” Woster is in her 19th year teaching Native American Studies at the school. Seeking Land is a 2021 graduate of the school’s High School Program and has attended the school since fourth grade.

Woster’s nomination cited her childhood identity rooted in fascinations with the numbers four and seven, the red dirt of the Plains, opportunities to dance, making wóžapi with her grandmother, the storms and the stars. “I was in touch with elements of my Lakota identity early on,” said Woster. “But I didn’t know what they were.” When she took Native American Studies in her early thirties, the constellation of her childhood attachments came together for her as the Sacred Hoop of her Lakota heritage coursing through her veins.

That constellation-coalescing experience is the source of the energy she brings to her role as St. Joseph’s Indian School’s Lakota Studies Lead. “Today, I want to give our students pride and understanding of their cultural identity and lead them to participate in the preservation of their Lakota language.”

Seeking Land’s nomination said, “To describe Tayeden Seeking Land in as few words as possible, we would do reasonably well to call him a wise and gentle soul.” His family service counselor said, “What makes Tayeden special is that he is one of the kindest, most thoughtful and level-headed students with whom I have ever worked.” He brings a deliberate sensitivity to his problem-solving and decision-making that is wise beyond his very young adulthood.

During his junior year in high school, Seeking Land added training to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA) to his already well-disciplined educational load. He completed the rigorous program. For the rest of his high school year’s he provided excellent care for those who could not do their activities of daily living.

A houseparent shared his shock when at 18, Seeking Land approached him to discuss opening a Roth IRA. It is unlikely that anyone ever spoke with him about retirement or money management, yet he has come to know the value of earning a living and planning for a far-off future in his own quiet wisdom.

He is currently working as a CNA at Sanford Health Long-Term Care, Chamberlain, S.D. He plans to begin studies in the medical field at South Dakota State University, Brookings, S.D., or the University of South Dakota, Vermillion, S.D.

St. Joseph’s Indian School salutes these two remarkable people who bring so much to the organization and to all whose lives they touch.


More Than 220 Native American students in first through twelfth grade find hope and brighter futures through our educational, counseling, and residential programs. St. Joseph’s Indian School transforms lives—mind, body, heart and spirit—every day. Learn more about us at www.stjo.org<

CORE is the only national organization exclusively representing children’s homes and boarding schools providing residential (home-like) non-treatment related services to children living away from their families.

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