Morning Star Pow Wow at John Carroll benefits Native American school in Montana

Devin Killsback is a student at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., more than 1,800 miles from where she grew up in Montana.

But on Saturday, Killsback experienced what she called “a little pow wow away from home” at the 19th annual Morning Star Pow Wow at The John Carroll School in Bel Air.


Killsback, a senior psychology major at Catholic University, graduated from the St. Labre Indian School in Ashland, Montana, in 2015. The annual pow wow at John Carroll, a day of celebrating Native American dancing, music, foods, arts and crafts, is a fundraiser for St. Labre.

“Thank you, everyone, for coming out and enjoying yourselves,” Killsback said as she addressed the Native American dancers and the many spectators gathered in the John Carroll gymnasium. “Good luck to all the singers and dancers today, hope you all have a good time.”


Her alma mater is one of three schools under the Roman Catholic St. Labre Indian School Educational Association, which serves Native American children in the Crow and Northern Cheyenne nations in southeastern Montana, according to the school’s website.

About 750 children attend all three schools, including St. Labre, which serves students in preschool through 12th grade, St. Charles Mission School in Pryor, Montana. — preschool through eighth grade — and Pretty Eagle Catholic Academy in Xavier, Montana, which serves kindergarten through eighth grade.

“It really felt like a family at Labre,” said Killsback, who also praised the school for its “phenomenal” support of students after they graduate.

St. Labre was founded in 1884 by a group from the Catholic Ursuline Sisters in Toledo, Ohio, and named for Saint Benedict Joseph Labre. St. Labre and its sister schools are funded “almost exclusively” by private donations, according to the website.

A Native American pow wow in Howard County offers food, dance and crafts celebrating native culture.

The pow wow fundraiser, which started in 2001, is coordinated by veteran John Carroll teacher Gary Scholl and the students in his senior anthropology class.

Scholl estimated about $75,000 has been raised through direct contributions during the pow wow over the past 18 years, plus another $10,000 to $20,000 from people inspired by the event to support the schools. School administrators “do such tremendous work in providing a quality education” for Native American youths, he said.

In his 45th year at John Carroll, a private Catholic high school in Bel Air, where he has been a coach, teacher and academic assistant principal, Scholl is currently teaching part-time.

The students in his anthropology class, a social studies elective for seniors, learn about Cheyenne Indian history and culture. Many students have visited the St. Labre school, as well as the Northern Cheyenne reservation in Montana and the Southern Cheyenne reservation in Oklahoma. Scholl, who grew up in Bel Air, was introduced to the Southern Cheyenne community when he moved to Hammon, Oklahoma, after college when he was working with the Mennonite Voluntary Service.

He said “we did whatever we could to serve the Cheyenne community,” including summer school and recreation programs, even establishing a federal Head Start early childhood education program that remains in operation today.

Scholl spent two years working in Oklahoma, but he has remained close with the Northern and Southern Cheyenne people, making regular visits with his family and students to the reservations in Oklahoma and Montana.

“I’ve been with them [the Cheyenne] ever since,” he said.

Scholl said he does not have any Native American heritage — “only in my heart” — but he wore traditional native regalia as he took part in the dances in the gym and interacted with the many visitors. He said about 100 dancers participated Saturday and about 2,000 people attended, circulating throughout the day.

His wife, Kathy, attended, as well as two of his three daughters, Anna and Sarah — Sarah Scholl teaches at Havre de Grace Middle School — plus his grandchildren.

“That’s what pow wow-ing is about,” he said. “It’s about family and friends.”

A taste of life back home

Longtime friend David White Buffalo has been part of the pow wow since the beginning. The York, Pennsylvania, resident is a member of the Lakota Sioux nation and grew up on the Rosebud Sioux tribe reservation in South Dakota.

He drummed and danced Saturday. White Buffalo, who used to live in Maryland, said he met Scholl through other pow wow events.

“We are here to help educate the [John Carroll] school and the public in our cultures — basically, we’re sharing,” he said.

Men, women and children, many of whom wore elaborate headdresses and garments, danced in a circle around the gym flood while others beat a large drum and sang. Wilbur Bull Coming, a chief with the Southern Cheyenne in Hammon, was the master of ceremonies.

“We all come here in a good way, to take care of our people,” Bull Coming said.

Killsback, the St. Labre graduate, made her third visit to the pow wow Saturday. She said she comes “to support my school and my tribe.” She also noted it is helpful for people like her, members of the Cheyenne nation who are far from home.

“It’s a good sense of reconnecting with your culture,” she said.

Killsback attended with her aunt and uncle and cousins.

“I think it gives them an idea of what life is like back home,” she said when asked her thoughts on children being able to participate in the dances. “I think the children and the youth in general are out future, so we really have to pay attention to them and help them grow into good human beings.”

Audience participation

Non-native spectators were welcome to participate during select dances, called “inter-tribal” dances.

Dana Bradburn, of Dundalk, watched as her daughter, Brooke McMillan, and 2-year-old granddaughter, Malaysia Jamero, danced around the gym.

Saturday was their first time at the Morning Star Pow Wow, but the family visited a prior pow wow in Timonium in November.

“I love it, it’s something interesting to learn about,” Bradburn said of the Native American cultural displays.

She said “it warms my heart” to see her granddaughter enjoying the dances.

“She kind of watches and then imitates what they do,” McMillan said of her daughter. “She’s always taken a liking to music, from an infant age.”

Malaysia can also be exposed to various types of tribal cultures at the pow wows, she said.

“It’s not just one indigenous culture,” McMillan said. “It’s different tribes coming together, so she gets to see a little bit of everything.”

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