USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development visits Red Cloud School

posted on June 4, 2012

On the heels of last month’s visit by Senator Tim Johnson, Red Cloud Indian School welcomed another governmental official: Dallas Tonsager.

Mr. Tonsager holds the office of Under Secretary for Rural Development, a post he has held since being appointed by President Obama in 2009. Prior to joining USDA, Tonsager served as the South Dakota state director for Rural Development and later on the board of directors for the Farm Credit Administration.

The occasion for Mr. Tonsager’s visit was to witness firsthand how Red Cloud Indian School has been putting federal dollars to good use and to get a taste of the next exciting project on the docket: the addition and renovation to the fieldhouse, soon to become a true Wellness Center.

The funds, part of the American Recovery and Investment Act, have allowed Red Cloud to move forward with much-needed infrastructure improvements for the school, including new teacher housing, an upgraded heating and cooling system, and upgraded waste disposal infrastructure.

Since the partnership’s inception, Red Cloud has been the direct beneficiary of $3.5 million in grants and loans from USDA Rural Development, contributing to the completion of more than $4.4 million in projects as part of the most ambitious building plan ever initiated in Red Cloud’s 125-year history.

“These physical improvements help our faculty and staff do what they do best, which is teaching, counseling, coaching and advising students in preparation for college and their future leadership in the local community,” says Fr. George Winzenburg SJ, president of Red Cloud Indian School.

Three years into the partnership, USDA’s impact is visible in nearly all parts of the Red Cloud campus: the high school that’s now home to state-of-the-art science laboratories, Lakota language classrooms and a renovated library. Formerly known as “trailer row,” dilapidated trailers have been replaced by efficient housing units that provide homes to faculty who move to the reservation from across the country to teach at Red Cloud.

“Red Cloud is able to continue to recruit teachers from across the region to share their knowledge and expertise with the students that fill our classrooms,” says Bob Brave Heart Sr., superintendent of schools. “And, these students have a healthy, safe place to learn and grow because of these funds.”

The impact is not only seen, however. It is felt.

“Walk on-campus,” he adds. “You’ll feel the energy and excitement of learning."

USDA Rural Development has a network of 6,100 employees and 500 offices, a portfolio of business, housing, and infrastructure loans totaling $32 billion, and provides an estimated $20 billion annually to support economic and community development in rural America.

The department’s official mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for rural residents. Rural Development fosters growth in homeownership, finances business development and supports the creation of critical community and technology infrastructure. 

Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA Rural Development’s web site at