A Time to Bow One's Head

The sunflowers that were at their peak a few weeks ago have bowed their heads and readied themselves for the harvest. The temperatures are on a roller coaster: 100° one day and in the 30’s a few nights later. And our pandemic roller coaster continues. 

Sapa Un Catholic Academy (SUCA), our K-8 school, modeled after the Jesuit Nativity Schools, which have had great success educating children at risk, has opened. Over the summer, we lost a few students and gained a few others; we are opening with 50 students. We also have a couple of new staff members. In late August individual children and family groups came for academic testing. Online learning, with some limited in-person instruction, started after Labor Day. We will take things one month at a time. As soon as things are safe, we hope to return to onsite learning. 

Our unique Religious Education program has changed dramatically. In the past, we held classes during the school day in various public schools and at our CYO building. Now, since we can no longer go into the schools or take the children out, we had to let our two part-time catechists go. Our director, Jenny Black Bear, is reaching out to students by mail, email, and phone and offering online classes for interested families. Small First Reconciliation and Communion classes will begin this month. Since our youth group is small, it can meet in person while following safety guidelines. 

To reopen the St. Francis Mission Dental Clinic, drastic changes are necessary. We are moving forward with them, ordering the materials, equipment, and a new modular building to create a safe environment for our staff, volunteers, and clients. We hope to reopen in November. 

Although the last few months have been a wild ride, we can hang on because of your encouraging prayers and financial support. Thank you! Pilamaya! 


Taima Valandragrew up on the Rosebud. In 2014, she graduated from Todd County High School, where she was a cheerleader and played basketball and volleyball. This year she graduated from Sinte Gleska University with a B.A. in Early Childhood Education. Anticipating her first year of teaching, Taima is excited, but also nervous about teaching virtually. She sees connecting with her fourth and fifth-grade students as a big challenge. Hoping that extracurricular activities will be possible soon, Taima wants to help her students learn how to garden and to make traditional beadwork and outfits. 

Christy Webber, who grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation, is an enrolled member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota tribe of the Spirit Lake Reservation in North Dakota. She attended Pine Ridge High School, where she ran track and cross country and played basketball and volleyball. In 2009, Christy earned a B.A. in Psychology from Chadron State University in Nebraska. This year she will receive her Master’s in Education in Curriculum and Instruction, with a concentration in Trauma and Resiliency, from Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska. Christy will teach grades 6 to 8. She likes the small class size and the community atmosphere of SUCA; she said that her son Kenny, who will be a first-grader this year, “learned a lot of good values” last year as a kindergartner. 

Sara Haukaas,who graduated from St. Francis Indian School in 2001, is our new cook. She comes to us after working for twelve years as a Head Start teacher and a cook in the child-care program on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Sarah is excited to be part of the Sapa Un family and to return home, where she will be near family, including her sister Tate, our second and third-grade teacher. Until our students can return for in-house classes, Sarah will help to prepare food for our families to take home. Because, as Sarah told me, her specialty is “home-cooked meals,” we’re looking forward to the day when we can have lunch in the school! 

Macee Farmer,our new billing clerk and receptionist at the dental clinic, graduated from White River High School in 2015. She earned a diploma in Dental Assisting from Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, S.D. in 2016 and worked at various clinics. As a student, Macee clocked in clinical hours at our clinic. She has returned periodically to help out. Our clinic does not charge clients. Although it depends on volunteer labor, we can recoup the cost of providing certain services from Medicaid and other insurance programs. But we need someone to do the necessary documentation, billing, and follow-up. A two-year grant from the John T. Vucurevich Foundation allowed us to hire Macee, who said: “I am very familiar with the clinic and how it operates, so I’m excited to help with the billing and administrative side of it now.” 

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