Notes from Indian CountryChristmas plays remembered
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji – Stands Up For Them) We all knew we were about to enter the Christmas season when the nuns that made up a small choir started to sing a song called “Oh Come Emanuel.” That song was always a prelude to the other, more well-known songs of Christmas, because those songs like Silent Night, Oh Come All Ye Faithful, and Oh Holy Night, would all soon follow. This was what life was like at a Catholic Boarding School in the 1940s. In this case it was the Holy Rosary Indian Mission located about 4-miles North of Pine Ridge Village. It seemed to us that even the prefects, brothers, priests and nuns became a little gentler as Christmas approached. Many of the boys and girls knew that they would actually get a Christmas break and get to go home for a couple of short weeks. That thought alone brought a lot of excited chatter amongst the children. We always had a Christmas play in the gymnasium and the theme was always constructed around the Nativity scenes. The one play I remember the most happened at Kyle Day School in Kyle, now Little Wound School. I was in kindergarten there when we staged our Christmas play for the Pejuta Haka Community. Billy and Johnny Bear were my classmates. They were chosen to be the camel in the Nativity scene. Because I was the only one in my kindergarten class that could read a bill board was placed on the stage explaining each scene as it developed and I had the privilege of reading it to the audience.
The boys’ choir contribution to the event was a song in Latin called “Ora pro nobis.” Mr. John Bryde had worked with us for several weeks to get all of the right sounds out of us and his hard work paid off. Our choir had never sung so beautifully. We Lakota celebrate Christmas today because it was an important part of our culture to give and share gifts on special occasions. This and the fact that if we had attended boarding schools, many of our fondest memories were based on the joy we shared at Christmas. The joy of our school plays and the joy of the songs we sang. These were always things of beauty to us as we grew up. To all of the people who have been reading my columns and editorials now and for more than 40 years, I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and the Happiest of the New Year’s. Wopila Tanka! Tim Giago can be contacted at email@example.com
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