Monday, October 23, 2017



St. Francis Indian School
School History


When Sinte Gleska (Spotted Tail), an Itancan, leader of the Sicangu, met with President Rutherford B. Hayes, he requested that the Jesuits or the Black Robes, come to educate the Sicangu.

Sinte Gleska´s request was not an idle one that suddenly came out of nowhere. The Sicangu leader was seriously considering the condition of his people. As a principal leader of the Sicangu, Sinte Gleska viewed the needs of the people from this position, and as a dignitary- representative of the Sicangu Nation to the Federal officials in Washington, the Sicangu leader understood how the administration functioned in dealing with the Lakota.

He understood that the Federal Government was embarking on the task of breaking the tribes and acculturating them when they had the opportunity. He felt that the Sicangu would not have a chance when the Federal Government was ready to impose a full scale program of acculturation. The answer to this was educating the Sicangu to learn from the Wasicu the simple tools of survival and not totally losing the Lakota culture. Thus at every opportunity, Sinte Gleska would press for the education of his people.

The type of education Sinte Gleska envisioned for the Sicangu people is just now being understood. He originally was thinking of getting his people, specifically his children, to learn basic English, Reading and Writing. He felt that if they could master this then they could put these skills to good use at the agency.

Sinte Gleska was not fool, he understood that changes had to occur and that these so call changes had to accommodate the shifting times. So when Captain R.H. Pratt came calling and floundered when the tribal council gave his plan to start a new boarding school a cold shoulder, Sinte Gleska came to the rescue. He supported Pratt, not knowing that the Federal Government´s intentions was to begin the process of shaping the image of the Native American into the image of the rural American farmer. When Sinte Gleska found out about this in 1880, he quickly withdrew his children and grandchildren.

When Sinte Gleska was slain in 1881, Nunpa Kahpa (Two Strike), the leader of the Hinhansunwapa (Owl Feather Bonnet) band assumed the lead in summoning the Black Robes to Sicangu country to educate the people. Finally in 1885, the Sapaun (Black Robes) accepted the invitation and came to the Sicangu country.

The two Jesuits, Father Jutz, S. J. and Brother Nunlist, S. J. arrive to finish constructing a large frame building. The site was called Sapaun Ti or Sapun Ti, a contracted version that meant the place where the Black Robes live. When the place was officially dedicated in 1886, the mission was called St. Francis, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi who founded the order of the Franciscans. The traditional Lakota fondly remember this place still as Sapun Ti.

Taken from the "History of St. Francis Mission-St. Francis Indian School Education from 1850´s to 1993," by Victor A. Douville.



1850´s to 1870´s: Father Pierre Jean Desmet, S. J. extends missionary influence over the Lakota.

September 2, 1877: Sinte Gleska met with President Hayes and requested that the Black Robes, Jesuits, come to the Agency and teach the Sicangu.

September, 1879: Sinte Gleska sent four sons and two granddaughters to Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. This was an attempt to teach his children to become bilingual and bicultural. A total of 34 children were recruited from Spotted Tail Agency.

July, 1880: Sinte Gleska removes his children and grandchildren from Carlisle because they were not being taught what he originally envisioned.

August 5, 1881: Sinte Gleska is slain and his able lieutenant Nunpa Kahpa (Two Strike) continues to pursue the original plan of inviting the Black Robes to teach the Sicangu. Later Mato Hehogeca (Hollow Horn Bear) will help in this effort.

December 31, 1885: The first Jesuits, Father Jutz and Brother Nunlist, arrive to fulfill the request of Sinte Gleska.

January 1, 1886: St. Francis Mission is officially founded with the completion of the school building.

June 15, 1886: St. Francis Mission starts its first day of school with only three students in attendance. However, in the ensuing days move would arrive bringing the total to over 40.

February 8, 1887: The General Allotment Act, or the Dawes Severalty Act, is passed which resulted in the official government policy of "forced assimilation" of Native Americans across the country. This have the Jesuits and Franciscan nuns the added boost to use unrestricted force to compel the students to learn.

March 2, 1889: The Sioux Act is passed into law and the six major Lakota reservations are created. Thus the Rosebud Sioux Reservation comes into existence and the Lakota lose 11 million acres of land by this act.


September 1909: A record 300 students were enrolled at the St. Francis Mission.

1928: Beginning in the 1920´s, the issue of separation of state and church began to escalate. The issue of monetary aid to denominational organizations, especially missionary work in education began to impact St. Francis Mission and other Jesuit operated schools. This resulted in cut backs and termination of federal aid. This will culminate in 1934 when the Supreme Court nationalized the provisions of the first amendment on religion (the separation of state and religion).

May 24, 1933: The first high school graduation. Three girls, Viola Bordeaux, Ophelia Little Thunder and Valeria Neiss, complete their tenure at the St. Francis Mission. This was a culmination of efforts resulting from the expansion of curriculum for sixth to eighth grades during the 1920´s to the higher grades.

May 21, 1936: St. Francis celebrates its fiftieth anniversary. At this time 479 students are enrolled, making St. Francis Mission the largest Catholic boarding school in the United States.

1967: A parents advisor board was instituted by the Jesuits and Franciscan nuns to assist in making policy and advising. This was the beginning of the formation of the Sicangu Oyate Ho, Inc.

December 10, 1970: Sicangu Oyate Ho, Inc. becomes official.

1972: The official name of St. Francis Mission is changed to St. Francis Indian School.

August 23, 1972: First day of classes for St. Francis Indian School.

May, 1973: First graduating class for St. Francis Indian School.


June 30, 1980: The Jesuits finalize complete transfer to Sicangu Oyate Ho, Inc.

August 6, 1990: Mark Bordeaux, enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, is installed as the first Sicangu to be Superintendent of St. Francis Indian School.

August, 1993: Superintendent Ted Bogda presents the first ambitious and comprehensive Lakota Studies program to the Sicangu Oyate Ho, Inc. board, which is approved. This signals the beginning of the end of complete domination of Anglo studies in St. Francis since the Jesuits assumed control in 1885.

Taken from the "History of St. Francis Mission-St. Francis Indian School Education from 1850´s to 1993," by Victor A. Douville.