Reservation’s Summer Camps Combine Bible Study and Lakota Cultural Lessons – Catholic Philly


WASHINGTON (CNS) – Every summer, hundreds of children from the Rosebud Indian Reservation in south-central South Dakota attend a day camp where they learn about God and their Lakota culture.

This camp is run by the St. Francis Mission, which is an outreach ministry run by the Society of Jesus for the 20,000 Sioux on the Rosebud Reservation.

The mission was founded in 1886 by Bishop Martin Marty with the goal of re-evangelizing the Catholic Lakota people, immersing them in the Lakota tradition, and bringing the gospel to those who have not heard it.

The Lakota tribe is slightly smaller than other Native American tribes. Currently, there are only 70,000 registered Lakota Indians, and only half of them are fluent in their ancestral Lakota language.

The Lakota people are a strong cultural and spiritual people, and they strive to preserve their way of life. All teenage tribe members are taught the values ​​and history of the group by their parents.

Body, Mind & Soul camps, led by Jennifer Black Bear, Director of Religious Education at St. Francis Mission, are another way to immerse youth ages 6-14 in the culture of their ancestors.

This year, the camps were held in five different locations from June 1 to July 3, with the theme “Everest: Meeting Challenges with the Power of God.”

“Over the years we have found that there are many children who attend Body, Mind & Soul camps on the Rosebud reservation who have heard very little about their own culture. Our new program is a way for us to educate them about Lakota culture through stories, personal experiences and crafts,” said Black Bear.

Every morning at 9 a.m., campers have breakfast together, then kick off the day’s activities with songs and a daily Bible verse. All activities, such as their tea party, storytelling and crafts, are centered around the verse of the day.

Children move through each activity station in groups, and some of the stations are KidVid Cinema, where young Lakota can watch videos of real children showing how God is working in their lives, and Critter Cafe, where children prepare their own themed snack and talk about the Bible verse of the day.

After lunch, the Bible School activities come to an end and the rest of the afternoon is focused on the Lakota tradition. Much of the afternoon time is devoted to storytelling, which is a key part of the Lakota tribe.

“We hope to instill a love of learning in our campers,” explained Black Bear.

One of the stories that the Body, Mind & Soul camps focus on, she said, is the Lakota creation story. Black Bear told Catholic News Service that the Lakota creation story, while similar to the traditional Christian seven-day view of creation described in the Old Testament Book of Genesis, differs slightly.

Essentially, Lakota’s story is about Iyan, a rock in the void, who was lonely and wished he had other objects with him so he wasn’t alone and could have power over something other than himself. Iyan made others exist by piercing himself and blue blood flowed from the wound and he formed Maka Ina, which is now Earth.

The power that moves all things is Taku Skan Skan, which is the energy given up by the now powerless rock. Anpetu Wi is the day sun and Hanhepi Wi is the night sun. Humans, Pte’ Oyate’, were created and their purpose was to serve the gods, and they became the Lakotas.

Many Body, Mind & Soul camp volunteers come from all over the United States; they’re not just Rosebud Reservation residents.

This year, students from Xavier Jesuit High School in Cincinnati and Tampa Jesuit High School in Tampa, Florida, and their chaperones came to help out at the camps.

Black Bear noted that many of the campers have returned to volunteer in order to give back what they received.

She told CNS that she believes the camps are part of the Catholic Church‘s evangelism efforts.


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