It all started with a conversation over dinner …
A little over eleven years ago, President Mike Tyrell from St. Joseph’s Indian School and Father Heinrich Hogebach, Headmaster of Gymnasium Leonium in Germany, sat down together for dinner. What began as a conversation over dinner was about to turn into something magical!
In 1927, Fr. Henry Hogebach — Fr. Heinrich’s great uncle — founded St. Joseph’s Indian School in South Dakota. So many years later, the younger Hogebach would begin working to reestablish the connection his uncle first kindled between Germany and South Dakota, all on the common ground of a school founded by the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
After months of discussion and preparation on both sides of the pond, two St. Joseph’s students and two staff members boarded a plane to Germany. Students at Gymnasium Leonium in Handrup, Germany — founded by the Priests of the Sacred Heart, just like St. Joseph’s Indian School — were anxiously awaiting their arrival. The Lakota students spent time learning about the German culture and education system while sharing important aspects of the Lakota (Sioux) culture with those they met.
In addition to their presentations, the students took time to teach the students Lakota words and phrases, and even learn some German of their own.
“I was really proud of our students,” stated Maija. “They portrayed themselves, their culture and St. Joseph’s in such a positive light!”
Fast forward eleven years and the program is more active than ever! Each year, four St. Joseph’s students and two staff members travel to Germany. In return, four students and one staff member from Germany travel to the United States to visit South Dakota and St. Joseph's Indian School.
During the visit, St. Joseph’s students spent time visiting Gymnasium Leonium and making presentations to German students and local community members.
Through all the work, there is also fun! St. Joseph’s students always enjoy taking in the sights and foods of the country with their host families and fellow students.
Lilli’s favorite part about visiting overseas was:
This September, the four German students and staff member took their turn visiting St. Joseph’s. They spent time on campus and shadowed the high school students at the local public high school. They also attended extracurricular activities and spend a weekend in the Black Hills visiting attractions such as Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, the Badlands and Wall Drug. This year, the students were also able to take part in St. Joseph’s 40th Annual Powwow festivities!
In addition to popular spots, German students have experiences more focused on Lakota (Sioux) tradition and history, such as attending nearby powwows and visiting local reservations. They also had the opportunity to see Sundance grounds, tribal headquarters and begin to understand reservation life.
When both trips are over, the students often stay in touch … knowing that although an ocean may separate them, the year of shared experiences and lasting memories will allow them to be friends forever.
“It is a trip of a lifetime with life-long friends from Germany!” — Melvina