Outreach and Other Programs

Native American children having fun during Rising Eagle Day Camp.

Although St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus resides in Chamberlain, South Dakota, the mission to help Native American children and families extends far beyond into many other communities and reservations.

St. Joseph’s responds to the effects of poverty through direct action and outreach during every season of the year through a variety of ways. Whether it’s hosting a summer day camp for reservation children, or providing food boxes and clothing to people in need, St. Joseph’s does not sit idle when others are in need of help.

At St. Joseph’s Rising Eagle Day Camp, Lakota children from the Lower Brule and Crow Creek reservations take part in cultural arts and crafts, eat nutritious meals and thrive in a setting where kids can just be kids! Every day, camp counselors drive approximately 60 miles roundtrip to pick up Native American children who yearn to have fun, learn and form new friendships … all in a safe environment and at no charge.

Libraries are a rarity in reservation communities, and the closest one may be more than 50 miles away! Thanks to your generosity, the Bookmobile is meeting a real need.

Each summer, St. Joseph’s Bookmobile travels approximately 3,000 miles across South Dakota and into reservation communities distributing free reading materials to children and families in need. This program puts thousands upon thousands of books into the hands of youth and adults every summer. Our dedicated staff members also use the Bookmobile trips as an opportunity to visit with former students, meet prospective families and distribute student applications to families in need.

In traditional Lakota (Sioux) culture, women are viewed as sacred beings … they are the keepers of life and the heart of the family. Today, Native American women are among the most abused — physically and sexually — demographic in the United States.

Unfortunately, services to help battered women and their children in reservation communities are rare. This is why the Sacred Heart Chacon Family Safe Shelter on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation is so important. The center provides abused women and children (and the occasional male victim) hope, safety and support in times of great need. Whether it is a temporary home while they leave a dangerous situation, a warm meal, or a ride to court, Native American women receive moral support and guidance to help them through challenging situations.

In 2021, this program expanded with a new building to care for victims and survivors of violence.

In some reservation communities, young adults can find themselves with little to no parental guidance. Young people may fall victim to gangs, violence and substance abuse. Some of these young men and women end up in the juvenile court system.

For these youth, the Adolescent Care Center in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, provides the opportunity to learn from the negativity in their lives, turn those situations around and move forward in a positive way. Children are referred to the center’s program, where professionally trained staff help them learn how to live healthy, productive lives.

Care teams work with the children and their families to help promote healing and future success.

The Bear Necessities Thrift Store, located in Eagle Butte near the Sacred Heart Center, provides clothing and household items for people in need at a nominal cost. Items include adult and children clothing, shoes, household goods, bedding, books and other items that make a house a home.

Each year, St. Joseph’s is proud to help Native American students achieve higher education! Scholarship awards are given at the start of the fall and spring semesters. Native American students from South Dakota are eligible, but preference is given to St. Joseph’s alumni and family members of current students.

The Aktá Lakota Museum & Cultural Center, an educational outreach of St. Joseph’s Indian School, is committed to promoting the knowledge and understanding of the Northern Plains Indian culture — past, present and future. Through the preservation of historical artifacts and contemporary works of art. The words “Aktá Lakota,” meaning “to honor the people,” were chosen because the museum is truly intended to honor and preserve the rich culture of the Lakota people, the students at St. Joseph’s Indian School and for thousands who visit the museum each year.

In addition to monetary gifts, friends support St. Joseph’s children and families with gifts of clothing, household items, toiletries and more. Each of the items so generously donated are first offered to our students and their families through our homes, school and outreach programs.

When we are blessed with a surplus of items or gifts not immediately needed by our children, families or outreach programs, we offer the items at a nominal cost through our downtown thrift store.

The store, located on Chamberlain’s Main Street, allows individuals from the area to purchase much-needed items at a discount while giving them the opportunity to support the boys and girls at St. Joseph’s. All thrift store sales help to fund programs and services for the children in our care.

Additionally, the thrift store serves as a wonderful opportunity for our high school students to learn life skills. Interested students help staff at our thrift store as part-time employees. This benefits students by offering them flexible scheduling and real-life experience while also allowing them to earn income. Through this work experience, we help young adults learn the importance of good work ethic and the rewards of financial responsibility.

While approximately 200 Lakota boys and girls are cared for on the campus of St. Joseph’s Indian School, we never forget about their families and communities back home in reservation communities.

When St. Joseph’s is blessed with a surplus of items, we hand deliver them to people in over 30 reservation communities spanning South Dakota’s nine reservations.

These mission runs often include supplies of clothing, books, toys, diapers, blankets and household essentials. During South Dakota’s harsh winters, mission runs can sometimes provide warm coats, blankets, hats, gloves and more to people in need.

More recently, mission runs have begun incorporating food boxes. Some reservation communities are so remote, that the nearest grocery store could be miles and miles away. St. Joseph’s provides food boxes with healthy items such as bread, milk, eggs, fruits and vegetables, and non-perishable items to help feed families affected by poverty.

Learn more about our other Native American Youth Programs.