Red Cloud Indian School Celebrates 125 years of Service
on the Pine Ridge Reservation

Learn more about Red Cloud's 125th Anniversary, including details about our October 18th Celebration at All are welcome to attend!

posted on September 18, 2013

Over 125 years ago, Oglala Lakota Chief Red Cloud successfully lobbied the United States government for permission to establish a Jesuit school in western South Dakota. His people were facing irrevocable economic and cultural loss—and he believed Jesuit education would help them to survive in a rapidly changing world while remaining true to their Lakota identity.

Today, Chief Red Cloud’s vision is alive and well on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Red Cloud Indian School, a multifaceted Jesuit organization just outside the small town of Pine Ridge, has emerged as a leader in holistic education, cultural and linguistic preservation, spiritual formation and social justice. Next month, this unique institution will kick off a yearlong celebration to mark its 125th anniversary—and to embark on the next phase of its work supporting a new generation of Lakota leaders.

“We are so proud and humbled that, after 125 years, Red Cloud Indian School is stronger than ever,” says Red Cloud’s President Father George Winzenburg, SJ. “Our focus on providing a holistic and rigorous education for Lakota students, engaging the community through Native art, supporting the faith and wellbeing of families at six churches and bolstering the economic landscape here on Pine Ridge is having a real and powerful impact. And this is only the beginning.”

“Red Cloud represents a true convergence of Jesuit and Lakota values, in support of an education of the mind, body and spirit,” explains Executive Vice President Robert Brave Heart Sr. “We work to incorporate Lakota heritage, identity, and particularly Lakota language and the arts into everything we do. That has resulted in tremendous success for our students academically, culturally and spiritually.”

Today it is clear that Red Cloud’s distinctive educational approach is working. Recent data suggests that only 51 percent of Native American students across the country received a high school diploma in 2010. At Red Cloud, nearly 100 percent of students graduate and go on to post-secondary education or training. Scholarships and awards often support students’ future plans. More students at Red Cloud have earned the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship than at any other school of its size in the country. To date, 59 Red Cloud students have received the merit-based, full-ride scholarship since its creation in 2000.

Red Cloud graduates take those awards to some of the nation’s top universities. Today Red Cloud alumni are studying political science at Stanford University, engineering at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, and English at Dartmouth College. Many alumni choose to serve their communities and improve conditions for Native families both on and off the reservation, serving as social workers, advocates, educators and members of the armed forces.

The Heritage Center, located on Red Cloud’s campus, deeply enriches the school’s educational model. This unique cultural center holds a collection of more than 10,000 pieces of contemporary and historical Native and Lakota art—and provides the local Pine Ridge community with access to an internationally significant resource. With the recent hiring of a museum educator, The Center is able to offer culturally relevant education in the arts, science and math to students at Red Cloud and across the reservation.

On October 18, Red Cloud will host “Honoring Our Heritage, Building Our Future,” an anniversary event celebrating its accomplishments and kicking off the next phase of its work. The event will include tours of Red Cloud’s historic campus, Lakota language and arts workshops, an archery competition and a traditional Wačípi (powwow). All are welcome to attend, including members of the press. For more information, please visit

As Red Cloud’s administrators prepare for the celebration, they are focusing on those who have supported its mission over its many years of service.

“Over the last 125 years, many Lakota, Jesuits and Franciscan sisters have made tremendous sacrifices to make Red Cloud what it is today. And we know that our future success depends on the support of local residents and friends across the country,” says Fr. Winzenburg. “We’re looking forward to celebrating together, while we prepare for the many opportunities ahead.”

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