NewsNovember 26 2014

Posted by Lucy

Moving Day

Last Tuesday, November 18, members of the Eastern Star, l-r; Gloria Perry, Donna Cole, and Sally Garnos, started moving items from their old meeting place into the newly constructed building on Main Street, Presho.  The building, which will be home to the Eastern Star and Masons, was built with funds donated by the late Dakota Mullen Sturgis.  The building features a community room available for rent to the public.  Several businesses will set up a vendor booth in the building Thursday, December 4 for Presho’s Homespun Christmas celebration.  The Eastern Star will hold an open house and announce the name of the building at a later date.

NewsNovember 26 2014

Former students rebut CNN’s accusations against St. Joseph’s Indian School

Posted by Lucy

Former students rebut CNN’s accusations against St. Joseph’s Indian School

Hannah Baker/Chamberlain SUN

Avis Dion had mixed feelings when she watched the CNN report about St. Joseph’s Indian School on November 17.

“I was angry. I was hurt,” said Dion, who sits on the St. Joseph’s Parent Advisory Council and has had five foster children, three biological children and two grandchildren who have or still currently attend St. Joseph’s. “I didn’t feel like they told the true story at all.”

The CNN show Anderson Cooper 360 reported about St. Joseph’s Indian School during its broadcast on November 17. In the report, CNN accused St. Joseph’s of using false sob stories to trick donors into giving money to the school as part of its fundraising campaign.

Although CNN accused the stories as being false, former St. Joseph student Rozlyn Quilt, class of 2009, said the stories are true. Quilt said she herself came to St. Joseph’s after leaving behind a place she would not describe as positive.

“As sad as it may sound, those stories are very real,” said Quilt.

The stories in question are a part of a fundraising mailer the school sends out seasonally to current and potential donors. The mailer includes information about the school, a novelty dream catcher and a letter telling a story from a student’s point of view. The mailer example CNN used in its report included a letter from a student named Josh Little Bear who explains how St. Joseph’s has helped him escape a life that included an alcoholic father and a drug-abusing mother. There is a disclaimer on the letter that states the name of the student has been changed to protect the privacy of the student.

It was confirmed by the president of St. Joseph’s Indian School, Mike Tyrell, that Josh Little Bear is not a real person. However, despite what CNN reported, he said the facts in the letter are true. In an interview with the Chamberlain SUN on November 19, Tyrell said Native American students from all types of home backgrounds come to the school, some of which included alcoholic and drug addicted parents. Those stories are then used as a basis of the letters in the fundraising mailers.

“The information was taken and worked into a new letter, but the most specific spots of that letter are from one student,” said Tyrell. “Other students have also fallen prey to some of that. All of our kids come with different needs.”

Tyrell said the school regularly looks at its fundraising tools and evaluates what should and shouldn't be included in future campaigns. He said the school will most likely stop using the letters in future mailings, but that has yet to be officially decided.

According to Tyrell, CNN spent less than 24 hours in South Dakota – time he says was insufficient to get a clear picture of St. Joseph’s and the work that is done for Native American children.

Dion agreed, saying CNN should have reached out to more educated sources for input about St. Joseph’s who have direct ties to the school.

“They didn’t talk to parents. They didn’t talk to students. They came in from another state into our little world with no understanding about what St. Joe’s is and then they left,” said Dion.

St. Joseph’s is operated by the Priests of Sacred Heart, a Catholic organization. The campus includes classrooms for grades K-8, a chapel, dining hall, health center, the Atka Lakota Museum and Cultural Center, a playground, recreation center, administration offices, and on-campus housing. Teachers in the classroom not only teach the typical school subjects, but Native American culture, as well.

Quilt said she learned traditional beading and dances at St. Joseph’s – two things she is happy to pass on to her own daughter.

“Keeping traditions alive is very important and I wouldn’t have known how to do those types of things without St. Joe’s,” said Quilt.

Providing this type of facility amounts to a high dollar. The school’s 2014 Financial Report states it spent around $54.5 million. Total revenue during the same year was $62.2 million, leaving a surplus of $7.76 million. CNN reported St. Joseph’s has around $122 million “cash on hand”; however, that number is a total worth of St. Joseph’s – including the value of campus buildings, facilities, etc.

Money spent goes to managing the campus, administration fees and program costs, among other things, added together to provides its 200-some Native American students with not only an education and a place to live, but basic essentials such as clothing, toiletries, school supplies, a bed to sleep in and food to eat.

Paul Davis, another former alumnus of St. Joseph’s, said the support the school offers doesn’t stop upon graduation. He said the school has helped him out several times since he graduated.

“For a lot of programs, once you leave it you’re done and they’re done with you,” said Davis. “St. Joe’s stays with you lifelong.”

Davis said the report from CNN was an example of a “witch hunt”.

“The school will always be positive in my mind,” said David. “I’m proud I went to school there.”

NewsNovember 19 2014

Transportation Secretary visits South Dakota rail rehab project

Posted by Lucy

Clockwise from the left: State Sen. Mike Vehle, of Mitchell, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, State Rep. Jim Schaefer and Sen. John Thune speak following a press conference held at Cedar Shore Resort at Oacoma, Tuesday, Nov. 11th. Vehle and Schaefer were instrumental in securing state funding through the SD Legislature for the rail rehab project from Chamberlain west to Presho, while Sen. Thune worked with Secretary Foxx for approval of the $12.6 million TIGER grant to assist with the project. A number of dignitaries including Gov. Dennis Daugaard, Foxx and Thune toured the rehabbed rail line from Pukwana to Chamberlain prior to the press conference. Rail rehab project to Presho is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.

NewsNovember 19 2014

National Gas Average Nears Four-Year Low

Posted by Lucy

AAA South Dakota, Nov. 18, 2014 – The national average price for regular gasoline has remained below $3.00 per gallon for 17 days, with more than three-quarters of U.S. gas stations now reporting prices below this benchmark. Today’s national average price is $2.88 per gallon, which is the lowest since December 1, 2010. The price today is down a nickel from a week ago, a quarter less than one month ago and 33 cents below the price posted on Nov. 18, 2013, according to
South Dakota’s average price for self-serve regular today is $2.925, the lowest mark since Dec. 3, 2010. The state’s price has fallen for 22 straight days, from $3.180 on Oct. 31.
 “We have an extra reason to be grateful this year around the Thanksgiving tables,” said Marilyn Buskohl, spokeswoman for AAA South Dakota. “These low crude oil prices are giving motorists the cheapest holiday prices since 2009 when the national average was $2.63.”
Falling global oil prices have been the primary contributing factor to the price at the pump declining for 54 consecutive days. This is the longest streak of declines since 2008. West Texas Intermediate crude oil dropped to its lowest level in more than three years this past Thursday ($74.21 per barrel). At the close of formal trading yesterday, WTI settled at $75.64 per barrel.  AAA expects the downward pressure on prices to continue through the Thanksgiving holiday.

Market analysts continue to speculate on what action the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will take during the upcoming meeting, scheduled for Thanksgiving Day, Nov 27. Should the cartel opt to cut production, the price at the pump for motorists could move higher.  If OPEC instead chooses to maintain market share by leaving production unchanged, global oil prices could slide even further. 
Across the country, state averages continue to tick downward with consumers in 48 states and Washington, D.C. experiencing lower week-over-week prices at the pump. Drivers in South Carolina ($2.63), Mississippi ($2.65) and Tennessee ($2.66) are paying the nation’s lowest averages for retail gasoline.

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