Celebrating More Than 125 Years
Red Cloud Indian School has walked with the Lakota people through the massive cultural transition of the past century. Today we remain committed to supporting the next generation of Lakota leaders. As our celebration continues, we hope you will join us.
A Timeline of our History
1877: During one of his many visits to Washington, Chief Red Cloud implored President Rutherford B. Hayes to grant the Jesuits—known as the “Black Robes”—permission to build a school for Lakota children.
1887: On August 20, Jesuits and Lakota workers broke ground on the future site of Holy Rosary Mission. In 1888 the school opened and 100 students were enrolled by the end of the year.
1890: Following the massacre at Wounded Knee, Chief Red Cloud offered Holy Rosary protection from further violence.
1898: Construction of Holy Rosary Church, which served as the school’s chapel, was completed.
1906: Nearly 4000 Lakota Catholics traveled to Holy Rosary Mission to attend the 1906 Catholic Sioux Congress. Participants sang hymns in the Lakota language, and Mass was said in Lakota through interpreters.
1909: During the year of Chief Red Cloud’s death, Holy Rosary’s enrollment surpassed 200. Operating as a self-sustaining farm, older students spent half the day learning reading, writing and math, and the other half working with the Jesuits and Franciscan sisters to keep the mission running.
1924: The Indian Citizenship Act was passed, granting voting rights to the Lakota and other tribes for the first time, as enrollment at Holy Rosary surpassed 300.
1931: Our Lady of Lourdes—which now serves as Red Cloud Indian School’s second elementary school—became the second Catholic school to open on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
1934: The Indian Reorganization Act was signed into law, establishing today’s form of tribal government.
1942: As World War II intensified, Holy Rosary graduated its first high school class of five young men, known as the “fabulous five.”
1955: Holy Rosary Mission High School won the Catholic Indian Basketball Championship.
1967: Holy Rosary began teaching Lakota language classes, over two decades before Congress passed the Native American Languages Act of 1990.
1968: The first Red Cloud Indian Art Show opened, showcasing and celebrating native and Lakota art. Senator Robert Kennedy visited Pine Ridge and Holy Rosary, and the Indian Civil Rights Act was signed into law.
1969: To honor its Lakota identity, Holy Rosary legally changed its name to Red Cloud Indian School.
1973: In February, approximately 200 members of the American Indian Moment (AIM) occupied the town of Wounded Knee to protest the United States government’s failure to meet its treaty obligations.
1975: Ordained by the Bishop of Rapid City, Steven Red Elk and Reno Richards became the first American Indians in the United States to serve as deacons. Three years later, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was signed into law.
1979: Chuck Cuny was appointed Red Cloud’s first Lakota principal, as Red Cloud opened its new high school building. The previous year, Red Cloud established a fully incorporated and bicultural school board, including two Franciscan sisters, six Jesuits and eight Native Americans.
1980: While Red Cloud began closing its dormitories in the 1960’s, all boarding ended in 1980.
1982: Under the direction of Brother C.M. Simon, S.J, The Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School was founded to collect, preserve and exhibit native and Lakota art. Today, The Heritage Center stewards a world-class collection of over 10,000 pieces of historical and contemporary native art, and hosts the Red Cloud Indian Art Show each summer.
1998: Following the destruction of the historic mission church in a devastating fire, a new Church of the Holy Rosary opened. Incorporating the shape of a medicine wheel into elements of its design, the church reflects the importance of both Lakota and Catholic traditions and beliefs.
1999: The first Red Cloud student received the Gates Millennium Scholarship, covering the cost of their entire college education. Today, 63 Red Cloud students have received the scholarship, the highest per capita of any school in the country.
2003: Robert Brave Heart, Sr. became Red Cloud Indian School’s first lay, Lakota superintendent.
2008: Red Cloud launched the Lakota Language Program—and today offers the nation’s only comprehensive K-12 Lakota language curriculum.
2013: Red Cloud celebrated 125 years of history, we serve 600 Lakota students through our schools, minister to thousands across the Pine Ridge Reservation through our parishes, and honor and sustain Lakota cultural identity through the work of The Heritage Center. With strong support from our countless friends and partners, we remain committed to fulfilling Chief Red Cloud’s dream: to provide an education of the body, mind and spirit, rooted in both Lakota and Catholic values.