St. Francis Indian School
    School History

    When Sinte Gleska (SpottPicture of Chief Spotted Tail ed 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.