Dakota Hymnal Project Receives Grant

About 40 years ago, using a new-fangled copy machine, St. Kateri Tekakwitha parishioners (it was St. Catherine’s Parish then!) created 3-ring binders with hole-punched pages to contain a collection of Dakota hymns. It was a labor of love.
All these years later, those same 3-ring binders are still in use. But, time has taken a toll. Some Sundays, we choose the songs based not on the liturgical theme or the readings, but on whether or not a song has fallen out of our binders!

Celine Buckanaga, 99, is currently
the oldest tribal member.
and is one of the founding members of the parish.

For the past couple of years, in spite of many delays on the project, we’ve been inching closer to the completion of a reprint. Today, the Dakota language is considered to be “endangered.” Fewer first-language speakers are alive. The founders of the parish are fewer and fewer. The pandemic took many over these past three years. Others went on their “final journey” at age 96, 97, or older. This reality makes our hymnal project ever more vital.

This past week, we received word that we will be funded $1,500 towards printing costs. Our plan is to have the hymnal bound in hard cover. St. Kateri Parish has few resources, but we found out that we were selected to receive the Bishop Richard Pates Grant from the Diocesan Information Solutions Community*. It was a “long shot” grant application that I wrote with the help of other parishioners. We requested $1,000… and were granted $1,500 to help with the first printing! 

Our hope is to print enough copies for the parish, and to subsidize additional copies so parish families who would like their own copy can purchase one. We are also hoping to offer copies to other Christian churches on this reservation and in Flandreau, SD. These are two of the reservations where the Dakota dialect was/is spoken. The Dakotah Language Institute,  here on the Lake Traverse Reservation, will also want copies. After all, they will be an historical document!

Our Dakota Hymnals will include original artwork, a brief history of the parish and the Catholic Indian Community, and all the old hymns with the music, the Dakota lyrics and the English lyrics. We will also include the Sign of the Cross and the Lord’s Prayer in Dakota.

St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish, Sisseton, SD
(renamed from St. Catherine Parish as soon as St. Kateri was canonized)

We’re celebrating the funding good news and are working on the possibility of other partners to help fund the rest of this important project. It will be an exciting moment when Sister Nelda Hernandez, SDS, who is collaborating with the us to typeset all the Dakota hymns so they can be re- printed, lets us know the files are ready for a final proof-reading! 

Stay tuned!

*The Diocesan Information Solutions Community  is comprised of technology leaders throughout the United States and Canada who are employed or directly support one of our many Catholic (Arch)Dioceses, parishes, or schools.