Orville and Casimir were recently presented with St. Joseph’s 2012 Distinguished Alumni Awards during Mass in Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel.
In 1927, they were among the first Lakota (Sioux) students at the school.
“There were 21 boys and 25 girls that first year,” recalls Casimir, who came from the Eagle Butte area along with several siblings and cousins.
Casimir graduated from eighth grade at St. Joseph’s Indian School in 1932.
“There were two boys and two girls who went to town to take the examination,” he remembered. “We used the county curriculum, so we had to take the county’s test.”
After eighth grade, Casimir attended St. Francis Indian School and Haskell Indian Nations University. He worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the upper Midwest before enlisting in the Coast Guard in 1940.
After retiring in 1981, he and his wife returned to Eagle Butte, South Dakota, where Casimir has authored six books.
“Your upbringing and your religion will keep you on the straight and narrow,” he advised students. “Do not forget them. Also remember you will need a skill for the future. If you can’t be the best in your field, you still need to be good. Never give up.”
Orville attended St. Joseph’s Indian School from 1927-1929, along with two brothers and two sisters. He finished school in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, and then joined the Navy. After proudly finishing his tour as a sailor, he returned to South Dakota. He worked as a cook at Flandreau Indian School where he met his future wife.
The pair moved to Milbank, South Dakota, where Orville worked in a bakery for 40 years while they raised their five children. Orville’s son Bud accepted the Distinguished Alumnus Award on his father’s behalf.
“My father is a tremendous man,” said Bud. “If he were here, he would tell you that faith, love and lifelong learning will be the foundation of your life. He is very appreciative of this award and I’m honored to take it back to him.”
St. Joseph’s Distinguished Alumnus Award is presented to former students who have made a positive contribution to others, their culture or community, or acted in service to others.
Previous award winners include: