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Our Programs

Lakota children in need of a safe, stable education and culturally-rich home environment have turned to St. Joseph’s Indian School for over 85 years ... at absolutely no financial cost.

Residential Living

Nancy and Travis enjoy cooking at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

St. Joseph’s Indian School has a unique residential, group-home living program.

Each of the 19 homes on campus have houseparents who provide loving care in a safe and stable environment. Children are helped with homework, assigned chores and offered guidance and encouragement to achieve all they can. Each home has 12 children, making the adult to student ration 1:6.

Quality Education for a Bright Future

Erikka and Ben studying at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

Privately owned and operated by the Priests of the Sacred Heart, St. Joseph’s Indian School offers a quality education for children in first through eighth grades right on campus. Children benefit from small class sizes (approximately 12 students per classroom) and one-on-one attention.

After eighth grade, students can enroll in St. Joseph’s High School Program. With a capacity to care for 50 Lakota (Sioux) high school students, St. Joseph’s partners with Chamberlain High School to give our students a multitude of opportunities to participate in sports, fine arts and extra-curricular activities. In addition, they still live on St. Joseph’s campus with our specially trained houseparents.

Between the two programs, we are able to help approximately 200 students each year.

Cultural Awareness

Lakota (Sioux) drum group at St. Joseph's Indian School.

Preserving and sharing the Lakota (Sioux) culture is a core part of our mission at St. Joseph’s Indian School. In addition to Native American Studies classes for our students and our annual powwow, the Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center is located on campus for students and visitors alike to broaden their knowledge of the Lakota culture.

Appreciation of the children’s culture heritage is infused in our daily routine both at school and in the homes. Our Native American Studies classes focus on Lakota language, culture and traditions. We have cultural experts on staff and also regularly invite Lakota (Sioux) elders and advisors to assist with ceremonies like inipithe rite of purification — and educational opportunities for both students and staff.

Students have the opportunity to take part in numerous cultural activities such as:

  • Dance club that teaches traditional Native American dance and songs
  • Powwow competitions, including our annual powwow held on campus each year
  • Traditional drum group
  • Sweat lodges or inipithe rite of purification
  • Cultural trips
  • And much more

Religious Education

Native American students in the Lady of the Sioux Chapel.

Though St. Joseph’s Indian School is affiliated with the Catholic church through the Priests of the Sacred Heart, we welcome children of all faiths. Students are not required to be Catholic to attend, and we respect each child’s individual family beliefs.

We provide spiritual education through religion classes and, for Catholic children, offer additional sacramental preparation including baptism and first communion. In adherence to our mission, we seek to education the Lakota children for life — mind, body, heart and spirit.

Health Care - mind and body

A St. Joseph's nurse checking on Carter.

The Freimann Healthcare Center, located on St. Joseph’s campus, has two full-time nurses as well as two physician’s assistants that see students regularly. Barring something serious like an x-ray, we are able to see to all the students’ medical needs.

All staff who work directly with the children are trained to deal with minor health problems and are certified in basic First Aid and CPR. In addition to seeing that the Lakota students are healthy physically, our certified Family Service Counselors help them stay healthy emotionally. Each student has a counselor who works one-on-one with the student and his or her family. They are always available to assist the student and their family with issues that need to be worked through and new issues that may arise.

Outreach and Other Programs

Joe with his grandparents.

The work at St. Joseph’s Indian School isn’t confined to the Chamberlain, South Dakota campus.

Each year, your support enables us to reach out to Native American people and communities in a variety of ways:

  • Distribute over $100,000 in college scholarships annually to help Native American students prepare for careers
  • Support projects and missions on three South Dakota Indian Reservations
  • Operate a battered women’s shelter
  • Offer a month-long day camp program for Native American children from two reservations
  • Operate a bookmobile, distributing free reading material to South Dakota reservations in the summer
  • Run two thrift stores
  • Conduct various food and clothing drives for reservation families
  • And much, much more!