Frequently Asked Questions - The Generations Campaign for Red Cloud


Why is Red Cloud School conducting a campaign and why now?

The answer to this question has several parts. First, several buildings on our campus have structural issues that must be addressed. Frankly, these issues should have been addressed years ago. The extensive art collection in the Heritage Center, for example, is not protected from fire, temperature and water damage. The deteriorating condition of Drexel Hall makes it challenging for our students to study there in the library and for our guests and residents to stay there.

Second, and more important, we have an opportunity to make improvements to our campus that will positively impact our students, teachers and staff. This is a win-win for Red Cloud School.

Finally, several donors have already made generous commitments to this effort, which allows us to launch this campaign from a position of strength. Now is the time to make a lasting impact for our school and our community.

Didn’t we run a different campaign recently? How much money was raised and how were those funds allocated?

Yes. The “3 P’s Campaign” raised approximately $15 million dollars and was completed in 2019. Monies were allocated to recruit and retain teachers ($2 million), fund student scholarships ($3.6 million), provide innovative educational programming ($3.2 million), improve housing ($1.3 million), and address maintenance items (heating, cooling, and window replacement) ($4.5 million).

Is this campaign part of a more extensive plan for Red Cloud School?

The projects included in this campaign stem from previous studies and planning conducted by Red Cloud leaders, most notably the Educational Campus Long Range Plan completed in 1971. The latest version of this plan, which resulted from a six-month effort to clarify campus-wide goals and identify opportunities and deficiencies, was initiated in March 2021. The school then initiated a campaign planning study in late 2021 to test support for the projects. Based on positive feedback, the Board of Directors voted to move forward with a comprehensive fundraising campaign.

How will the Pine Ridge community benefit from this campaign?

Red Cloud School, as one of the biggest employers at Pine Ridge, directly impacts our extended community. A thriving and healthy school means a thriving and healthy community. Projects included in this campaign are aimed at attracting more visitors to the region, starting with the new Heritage Center, which will impact our economy. We envision the center serving as a hub for local and regional artists to display their work. We envision a renovated Heritage Center being better able to display the works that are now housed there but remain in storage. The Black Elk initiative could have a different kind of impact, providing needed social services to area families.

How will you determine what projects will be finished first?

The Heritage Center will be the first project completed as part of the master facility plan. Our priceless collection of Native American art is too vulnerable to potential damage to wait any longer for a new and secure facility. The Drexel Hall renovation will immediately follow. Safety concerns will be addressed at the same time with the introduction of new roads and appropriate pedestrian access. Construction will conclude with the track and field renovation.

How does this campaign fit with Red Cloud’s annual fundraising efforts?

Red Cloud Student

Red Cloud School would not exist without the generosity of our many donors who hail from throughout the world yet support our efforts in a remote part of South Dakota. The support received from our extensive fundraising efforts fund the school’s operations. So does the revenue generated from our endowment. This campaign seeks extraordinary support from our donors — support that is above and beyond what they already give. A request to support our campaign will be made independent of our already-established fundraising program.

How will Red Cloud’s students benefit from this campaign?

From facilities to funding, the campaign projects will have a significant and positive impact on our students. We will greatly enhance facilities for our students, teachers, staff and guests. Support for the faculty, transportation and technology funds will help our school deliver a better education to our students. We also want them to be safe, which is why we seek to redirect traffic away from our main campus and provide a courtyard where we can gather. Finally, through the Black Elk Initiative and improvements to Heritage Hall, we seek to help preserve the Lakota heritage at Pine Ridge for the next generation of students.

Who will be asked to participate in this campaign?

Everyone who has supported Red Cloud School will be asked to make an extraordinary gift to this campaign. Our hope is that this campaign will also resonate with new donors. We will seek every opportunity to reach our campaign goals, which means asking everyone for support.

When can I expect to be asked to support this campaign?

This campaign is slated to last at least 18 months. While we will begin asking for support in 2022, many of our donors will not be approached until 2023. Should you desire to make your gift before then, please contact the Red Cloud School Advancement Office. We would welcome that conversation.


Why is a new building needed for the Heritage Center? Couldn't this be housed in an existing building?

The Heritage Center’s collection of more than 10,000 works of art is at risk. This artwork cannot be properly preserved and stewarded in a building without fire suppression or humidity controls. The only way to ensure that our collection of Lakota history is preserved is to build new. The first step was to ask for community input. The feedback spurred design of a 15,000-square-foot building that will include collection space, gallery space, offices and classrooms. The collection of art – a connection to past generations – will be housed in a building meant for art preservation and presentation.

How does the Heritage Center support the mission of Red Cloud School?

A new Heritage Center will create meaningful economic opportunities for Oglala Lakota arts through local and national exhibitions, access to the marketplace, teaching programs and early-career coaching. The center will showcase and provide access to a diverse collection of Native American art through its extensive permanent collection – the only one of its kind located on a reservation


What is Drexel Hall? What is it used for and why does it need extensive renovation?

Drexel Hall is one of the oldest structures on the Pine Ridge Reservation. It is showing its age. It has remained relatively untouched for the past 130 years, which means its character has been preserved but improvements are long overdue to ensure its viability. Case in point: Drexel’s heating and cooling systems are inadequate, meaning our resident Jesuits, our guests and the staff who office in the building face chilling cold temperatures in the winter and oppressive heat in the summer. An extensive renovation will address safety and fire issues.

Drexel Hall

Will any of the renovation be re-purposed to support school operations?

The renovation of Drexel Hall will include improvements to the existing school library. All students in the elementary school use the library in Drexel, in addition, our Mackert Technology Innovation in Education (TIE) teachers are housed there and provide support to the students who receive TIE support daily. We have staff meetings in the library at times, along with the Scholastic Book Fair annually. Other times we use it for assemblies. Finally, the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders have class in the library each day for their daily library class. Drexel Hall also houses the Lakȟóta language immersion program and will include new, interpretive space to tell Red Cloud’s history. This will play a role in all of our students’ curriculum.


Why are funds needed to support faculty?

It’s too easy and unfair to say our teachers serve at Red Cloud School because they are called to do so. They are. But they also must be adequately compensated so they can live comfortable lives. They’re not. Research demonstrates that one of the main contributing factors to poor outcomes for Native students is the extreme challenge of recruiting and retaining qualified, effective teachers. A fund for teacher salaries and professional development would boost salaries and benefits to put their compensation more in line with what nearby school districts provide their faculty. Our faculty and staff work long hours – it’s only right that they are adequately compensated for their dedication and devotion to our students.

What will be done with the funds for technology?

One of the revelations learned from the pandemic was that technology has a permanent place in the education arena. Pine Ridge confronts a digital divide where access to technology is limited and, at times, unreliable. A technology fund would provide the hardware, software and expertise needed to ensure that Red Cloud faculty have the needed tools to teach our students, and our students are immersed in emerging technologies to carry with them as they further their education and enter the work force.

Why must roads be added on campus? Why is a central commons area needed?

Inadequate parking only compounds a challenging and potentially unsafe situation each time students and buses converge at drop-off and pick-up times at Red Cloud School. Once on campus, our students and visitors must navigate their way to class, offices and homes with limited signage and, in some cases, no sidewalks. Pedestrians must use the streets to get to their destinations. A North Service Road and a Housing Road will rectify a potentially dangerous campus layout by keeping vehicle traffic away from our students. A new central commons will become a gathering place for school, church and community functions – this would be free from vehicle traffic, thanks to the added roads.

Is a football field really needed?

Think back to your high school days. Participating in athletics or attending sporting events likely remain part of your fondest memories of this time. Athletics play a critical role in young people’s development. They encourage teamwork, good sportsmanship and promote achievement. Sports teams provide a source of pride – a unifying force. At Red Cloud, the playing field isn’t even. We look to replace and expand the 50-year-old track and field with lighting, concessions, grandstands and restrooms. Our facilities should enhance athletic performance, not restrict it.


Why are funds needed for student transportation?

Each year, Red Cloud buses amass 500,000 miles to bring our students to school and take them home at the end of each day. Without this means of transportation, many Red Cloud students would not be able to attend school – they simply live too far away and don’t have another way to get there. Roads on Pine Ridge present another challenge – they are rough and difficult to navigate, especially in the winter. Road conditions only increase the constant need for repair for our fleet of twenty buses. Red Cloud maintenance staff do their best to keep the buses operating. A transportation fund will ensure that buses are replaced on a timely basis and their maintenance is consistent.


What is the Black Elk Initiative? What does it have to do with Red Cloud School?

Nicholas Black Elk, a medicine man of the Oglala Lakȟóta and a Roman Catholic Catechist, was responsible for building St. Agnes Church in Manderson. As the Catholic Church moves through the process of officially recognizing Black Elk as a saint (also known as canonization), this initiative will restore St. Agnes Church, Black Elk Hall and Tekawitha Hall. Improvements will include maintenance items like windows, flooring and HVAC systems. Red Cloud’s 18+ Catholic cemeteries, including where Black Elk and Chief Red Cloud are buried, would also undergo long-needed maintenance.

These renovations will also go a long way in helping parishioners and community members, creating better space for these churches to provide needed social services like food pantries, meal distribution and vaccination clinics.

A black and white photo of a man and three children


There has been a lot of negative developments regarding the history of Native American boarding schools across the United States and Canada. An initial investigation commissioned by U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland was recently released. What does Red Cloud know about the report?

As a former boarding school committed to truth, healing, and accountability, Red Cloud Indian School stands firmly with all those who continue to grieve and experience trauma from the boarding schools. As the report acknowledges, the boarding schools were part of a larger project of cultural assimilation that used “identity-alteration methodologies” rooted in racist attitudes that caused deep harm to Indigenous children, families, and culture that has resulted in intergenerational trauma.

The Department of Interior’s report is a crucial first step in reckoning with our history. Red Cloud welcomes the support of the federal government as we work to make our records accessible. Red Cloud also invites Secretary Haaland to visit Pine Ridge and Red Cloud as part of her “A Road to Healing” tour. Red Cloud Indian School is in full support of the work and continues to advocate for the passage of H.R. 5444 - Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act. Red Cloud Indian School acknowledges the harms and struggles of the past and is committed to the long and difficult journey ahead.

What are Red Cloud leaders doing to address these issues on its campus?

The recent discovery of unmarked graves at several other Catholic boarding schools – not Red Cloud – has re-traumatized many Indigenous communities across North America. Our community is no different. We want to honor the courageousness of boarding school survivors and their descendants who now step forward to tell their stories. We welcome their calls for us to take action.

Red Cloud is embarking on a Truth and Healing initiative to confront our history as an Indian boarding school with unflinching honesty. Under the guidance of Executive Director Maka Black Elk, this process will support the truth of survivors and the opening of our records. As part of this initiative, we will conduct GPS mapping to reconstruct records and accurately represent who is buried in our Catholic cemeteries. We hope this will build community confidence and trust in our burial records.

The WIČHÓUŊČHAǦE (Generations) Campaign and Truth and Healing are separate efforts and will be funded separately as well. That said, the two programs will complement each other. Many of the campaign projects (Heritage Center, Black Elk Initiative) are specifically aimed at honoring, preserving and promoting Lakȟóta culture.

To learn more about Red Cloud’s Truth and Healing process, please visit