General Questions

About the Lakota Children

Our Educational Facility

Financial Information

General Questions

What is the purpose of St. Joseph's Indian School?
Since 1927, St. Joseph's Indian School has provided care and education for Native American boys and girls. We provide for the basic welfare of the Lakota children (food, clothing and medical care) with special emphasis on the spiritual, emotional and educational development of each child, while respecting their culture and heritage.

Today, challenged by new problems facing Native Americans, the work and ministries of St. Joseph’s Indian School stretches beyond our campus — reaching out to other Native American children and adults on three reservations.

Help provide for the basic needs of the Lakota (Sioux) children

Is St. Joseph's Indian School an accredited organization?
Yes. Our accreditations include: 

Is St. Joseph's Indian School part of the Catholic Church?
Yes. St. Joseph's Indian School is owned and operated by the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart (SCJ).

Who directs St. Joseph's Indian School?
Mike Tyrell is the President of St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota. Fr. J. Anthony Kluckman, SCJ, serves as our Chaplain.

How are the children who live at St. Joseph's Indian School cared for?
In earlier times, St. Joseph's Indian School was a dormitory-based facility, as were all Indian schools. In 1982 we changed to family living units offering a family/home environment. We have 20 homes which can accommodate 11 to 12 children each. Trained childcare workers provide for the development of social and life skills as well as meeting the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of each Lakota child.

Training and regular staff development are integral parts of our program. Each childcare worker is evaluated regularly to ensure the best quality care is given.

How many Lakota youth reside in St. Joseph's Family Living Units?
About 200 children reside in our family living units. Each home is located on our Chamberlain, South Dakota campus.

How does St. Joseph's Indian School preserve the children's Lakota (Sioux) heritage?
We promote the children's Native American heritage in many ways:

  • Native American studies focus on Lakota language, culture and traditions
  • Dance club teaches traditional dances and songs and is dedicated to promoting a clear understanding and awareness of self
  • An annual powwow is held on our campus each year
  • Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center
  • On-staff cultural expert/teacher
  • Elder Lakota (Sioux) advisors

Learn more about the Lakota culture.

What methods are used to decide which Native American children will be accepted at St. Joseph's Indian School?
Family Service Counselors interview all children and their families to determine the child's academic standing and adaptive behavior levels. Students are admitted based upon their need for residential care and the desires of the parent or legal guardian.

Which children are not accepted at St. Joseph's Indian School?
Unfortunately, we cannot accept children who require more supervision than we can provide. Generally, our supervision ratio is one adult to six children.

Is there a waiting list for St. Joseph's Indian School?
Yes. A waiting list is always maintained so any opening can be filled quickly. Our waiting list averages around 100 children at any given time.

How old are the Lakota children at admission?
Our youngest students are six-years-old and ready to start first grade. Our programs provide education all the way through high school years. We operate our own grade school for first through eighth grade children. High school students attend Chamberlain Public High School.

Who are legal guardians of the Native American children?
Parents, family or a court-appointed person or agency who placed the child at St. Joseph's are the legal guardians. Some children are placed at St. Joseph's Indian School by the courts.

Can Native American children be adopted?
St. Joseph's Indian School is not an orphanage or an adoption agency. Tribal Courts have the responsibility of placing any Indian children. Their consistent practice is to allow only registered members of their own tribe to adopt or serve as foster parents.

Can I sponsor a child?
We do not have a sponsorship program for one specific child. However, we do have a program called the Tiyospaye Club, which helps sponsor and educate all the children. Members of this club receive a monthly mailing which includes a letter and drawing from one of the children, a letter from Fr. Anthony and monthly notes. You can find more information on the Tiyospaye Club here. If you are interested in joining, please call 1-800-762-2162.

Give today and show your support.

Do the students participate in a pen pal program?
Yes. However, this program is handled through our social studies class. Currently, our children can't handle any more correspondence.

What are St. Joseph's outreach programs?
In addition to our family style childcare and education for Lakota children from broken or non-functioning families, we:

  • support projects and missions in South Dakota on three reservations;
  • train Lakota youth in vocational and college programs;
  • operate a shelter for battered women;
  • offer counseling services;
  • operate thrift stores;
  • run a bookmobile.

Can I volunteer at St. Joseph's Indian School?
St. Joseph's volunteer program on campus is extremely limited. We are required to do extensive screening, fingerprinting and background checks on everyone who works with the boys and girls. You can find more information on volunteering here.

Due to our residential situation, strict federal regulations require any maintenance or construction workers to be fully certified and insured. Consequently, this limits opportunities for volunteers on our campus.

However, volunteer opportunities are available at different locations around South Dakota. By working in a reservation community, you will directly impact the lives of our students and their families.

For more information, contact:

Cheyenne River Youth Project located in Eagle Butte, SD. (605) 964-8200 or

Habitat for Humanity Ft. Thompson, SD 605-245-2450
Habitat for Humanity Rosebud, SD605-856-2665
LB Boys & Girls Club Lower Brule, SD605-473-0652

Can I donate clothing?
Yes, these items are accepted. Useable items are:

Our shipping address is: St. Joseph's Indian School, 220 N Main St, Chamberlain, SD 57325. You can also print shipping labels now!

What services are available on campus for staff at St. Joseph's Indian School?
To ensure top quality care for our Lakota (Sioux) children, our staff receives a complete benefit package. More information is available from St. Joseph's Human Resources Department.

What is there to see while visiting St. Joseph's Indian School?

  • Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center is located on our campus and is open year-round. Summer hours are Monday through Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. CT and Sunday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CT. After Labor Day, the museum is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CT, Monday through Friday.
  • Campus tours are available and begin at the museum.
  • Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel, with its artistic Indian designs, beautiful stained glass windows and a woven tapestry of the painting "Indian Christ" by famed Crow Creek Sioux artist Oscar Howe, offers a true reflection of the rich heritage of the Lakota people served by St. Joseph's Indian School. A marvelous pipe organ, a gift from St. Aloysius parish in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was added in 1997.

Where is St. Joseph's Indian School located in South Dakota?
We are located in south central South Dakota, within the small community of Chamberlain. We are on Interstate 90 along the Missouri River. Our campus resides on the east bank of the scenic Missouri River.

(Back to top)

About the Lakota (Sioux) children

Where do the Lakota boys and girls who live at St. Joseph's Indian School come from?
The majority of the children are from the South Dakota reservations of Crow Creek, Lower Brule, Cheyenne River, Rosebud and Pine Ridge. We also serve children from other states. Some children are in tribal or state custody or have been placed at St. Joseph's by court appointment.

Lakota children need your help!

How long does a child usually stay at St. Joseph's Indian School?
Three and a half years is the average stay for grade school students. However, we have students who spend all their school years at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

Who decides when a child is ready to leave St. Joseph's Indian School?
A team comprised of St. Joseph's personnel, the child's parent or guardian, the referral agency (when one exists) and the child make this decision. In every case, the care and needs of the child are of primary importance.

What are the racial and religious characteristics of the youth on campus?
All students attending St. Joseph’s Indian School are Native American with various religious backgrounds such as Catholic, Episcopal and traditional Lakota. About 50% of the children are Catholic, 40% Episcopalian and 10% practice other religions.

Do all the boys and girls receive religious instruction at St. Joseph's Indian School?
Yes. Christian development is an integral aspect of our program. Children are given the opportunity to attend services of their own religious affiliation. Catholic services are offered on campus. The children receive regular religious instruction and a full-time chaplain serves their spiritual needs.

What is required of the Lakota children in their homes on campus?
Each child has responsibilities they are required to do. These include home upkeep, cooking, washing dishes, setting the table, laundry and living within a budget. Each family unit has regular home meetings to discuss home matters. The youth are also taught respect for other residents as well as basic life skills.

What do the American Indian children do when they are not in school?
We have a recreation program offering individual and group activities such as swimming, basketball, volleyball, football and track. The recreation center houses a gym, game room and swimming pool. In the homes, there is a variety of games and toys for the children’s use as well as bicycles, roller blades and skateboards.

How are the medical needs of the children met?
Children are treated at our healthcare center, where we have three full-time nurses as well as a physician’s assistant who see students regularly. All childcare workers are trained to deal with minor health problems and are certified in basic first aid and CPR.

Help purchase medical supplies.

Does St. Joseph's Indian School have a substance abuse program for the children?
Yes. We are continually developing and implementing substance abuse programs organized by the counseling department to focus on each age group. Various topics regarding substance abuse are discussed in the school and in the homes.

Do children ever run away?
The majority of children enjoy being at St. Joseph's Indian School, but there are runaways. We do not detain children who do not wish to stay here and actively participate in the programs offered. Children are able to leave at anytime with the permission of their legal guardian.

What is the Sacred Hoop Tiyospaye Center?
The Sacred Hoop Tiyospaye Center is a space for our Lakota (Sioux) students and their families to spend time together. Through the center, we provide short-term family visit accommodations, a variety of counseling services and an alumni program.

(Back to top)

Where the Lakota children receive an education

Where do the Lakota children attend school?
The younger children attend St. Joseph's Elementary School located on campus, while high school students attend Chamberlain Public High School.

What special learning needs do the children have?

Some children have a moderate range of speech, learning and/or emotional difficulties. These students participate in our special services program. Services included in this program are provided by Family Service Counselors, a child psychologist, a language therapist, special education staff and a resource center to help students adjust to learning problems.

Children also learn life skills through the personal living skills curriculum. Junior high students participate in job shadowing with staff while high school students may work in local businesses.

Help purchase school supplies.

What happens to Lakota children whose needs cannot be met at St. Joseph's Indian School?
We provide placement for children in other facilities. Referrals can also be made to local school systems near the guardian's residence.

Does St. Joseph's Indian School provide help to its graduates?
St. Joseph's Indian School's Scholarship Fund was established by the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart to benefit graduates of St. Joseph's high school program. The scholarship fund provides for the educational needs of Native American students in college and technical schools.

All scholarship awards are mailed directly to the college or technical school and are based on financial need and academic performance. There are two levels of funding available.

  • Level One
    High school graduates of St. Joseph's Indian School are eligible for up to $3,000 per year or $1,500 per semester.
  • Level Two
    Scholarship awards up to $500 per semester are available for past high school graduates from St. Joseph's Indian School. Preference is given to graduates and former students. Should funding exceed the number of preferred St. Joseph’s alumni other Native American applicants will be considered for scholarships starting at $300 per semester.

(Back to top)

Financial Information

What does it cost to educate a Lakota child at St. Joseph's Indian School?
The children's families are not charged tuition. All of their needs including housing, food, medical care and education are paid for through the generous help of people like you.

It costs approximately $58,000 per year, per child to meet these needs — that breaks down to $222 each day for every precious child in our care. These costs include compensation for teachers, counselors and support personnel needed to run the school and its programs. We are blessed with dedicated, professional staff who provide specialized care for over 200 students each year.

Help them receive a good education.

Does St. Joseph's Indian School receive support from casinos?
No, not on a regular basis. However, we have received gifts from people in management or other people involved with the casinos. We have also received gifts from casinos in other states.

Most reservation casinos located in South Dakota are in small isolated locations and are unable to attract large groups of people. There are also state regulations which restrict certain types of gaming.  Only a small percentage of federally-recognized Indian nations have high stakes gaming. Because reservations lack basic services and infrastructure, the few dollars generated by the casinos are unable to meet all of the community's needs. Such areas of need are health clinics, schools, water systems, housing, job training, daycare and services for the elderly, all of which are under-funded and lacking on many reservations.

Show your support today!

How is St. Joseph's Indian School funded?
Friends — people like you — financially support the Lakota children and all the services provided.  To solicit this support we rely on responses from the more than 30 million pieces of mail we send each year.

Are contributions made to St. Joseph's Indian School tax-deductible?
Yes, St. Joseph's Indian School is a 501(c)(3) corporation.  All contributions are tax-deductible (Sec. 170 IRC).

Does St. Joseph’s Indian School receive federal funding?
The only federal funding St. Joseph’s receives is for the Title 1 program. Title 1 provides assistance to students who need extra help in completing their regular homework. The Chamberlain Public School provides teachers for the program, who work on St. Joseph’s campus with our students. We receive no other ongoing support from the federal government.

Private donations are the main source of funding.

What does it cost to raise a dollar?
Of each dollar raised, 67 cents goes to the children in our care and for future planned program growth (such as additional high school residential homes). These funds provide the Lakota boys and girls a loving, safe, living and learning environment. Our program and supporting funds also provide needed services for the Lakota people on South Dakota reservations. These services include a women’s shelter, licensed adolescent group care center and counseling services.

Will you share a gift with the Lakota children at St. Joseph's Indian School?

(Back to top)