The Heritage Center began in 1969—more than 40 years ago—as an art show, not a cultural destination. The Red Cloud Indian Art Show, started by Fr. Ted Zuern, S.J. and Robert Savage and managed by Br. C.M. Simon, S.J. during that first show, was founded to demonstrate the talent and skills of local Native American artists and to afford them an entrance into the art world.
As a result of purchasing award winning artwork each year from the art show, Br. Simon quickly amassed an extensive collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures representing a variety of Native American tribal traditions. Also, donations of historical Lakota artwork were received from local families and private collectors from around the country. Soon, the need for an actual space for exhibiting these works became clear.
To address this need, the Center began “on paper” in 1974 on the campus of Red Cloud Indian School, and a new facility called The Heritage Center, Inc. swung open its doors in 1982 in the historic, brick school building—originally constructed in 1888 by the Lakota people and Jesuits priests and brothers. In 1997, the Center merged with Red Cloud Indian School and became a department within the overall institution, which includes not only the Center but also three schools that serve over 600 Lakota students and six active churches that minister to more than 800 families.
Today, The Heritage Center offers a rare opportunity to view an outstanding collection of Native American fine arts and historical Lakota arts. It continues to serve its mission—first noted by Br. Simon so many decades ago—to collect, preserve and exhibit the fine arts and traditional arts of Native Americans. The Center concentrates on the fine arts of all Native Americans and the traditional arts of the Lakota, and promotes the arts to bring a greater appreciation of their cultures.