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Our History

Maȟpíya Lúta (formerly Red Cloud Indian School, Inc.) traces its roots back over 135 years to Chief Red Cloud’s visionary efforts. Recognizing the irrevocable economic and cultural challenges facing the Oglala Lakȟóta people, Chief Red Cloud advocated for the establishment of “a school house – a large one” that would not only “teach us how to write and read, and instruct us how to do it” but also preserve and sustain Lakȟóta identity amidst a rapidly changing environment. After a decade-long lobbying effort, Chief Red Cloud succeeded, and in 1888, the Jesuits built a school on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Today, Maȟpíya Lúta is powered by Lakȟóta people and Catholic Jesuits, encompassing four schools serving nearly 500 students, pastoral services reaching almost 800 families across reservation communities, and The Heritage Center—a cultural arts hub engaging with over 300 Native artists annually. Beyond its educational and cultural endeavors, Maȟpíya Lúta hosts transformative programs such as Truth and Healing, Food Sovereignty, Alumni and Graduate Support, and the Lakȟóta Language Center, reflecting a commitment to holistic community development rooted in the intersection of tradition and progress.

Celebrating More Than 135 Years


1877: During one of his many visits to Washington, Chief Red Cloud implored President Rutherford B. Hayes to grant the Jesuits—known as the “Black Robes”—permission to build a school for Lakȟóta children.

1887: On August 20, Jesuits and Lakȟóta workers broke ground on the future site of Holy Rosary Mission. In 1888 the school opened and 100 students were enrolled by the end of the year.

1890: Following the massacre at Wounded Knee, Chief Red Cloud offered Holy Rosary protection from further violence.

1898: Construction of Holy Rosary Church, which served as the school’s chapel, was completed.

1906: Nearly 4000 Lakȟóta Catholics traveled to Holy Rosary Mission to attend the 1906 Catholic Sioux Congress. Participants sang hymns in the Lakȟóta language, and Mass was said in Lakȟóta through interpreters.

1909: During the year of Chief Red Cloud’s death, Holy Rosary’s enrollment surpassed 200. Operating as a self-sustaining farm, older students spent half the day learning reading, writing and math, and the other half working with the Jesuits and Franciscan sisters to keep the mission running.

1924: The Indian Citizenship Act was passed, granting voting rights to the Lakȟóta and other tribes for the first time, as enrollment at Holy Rosary surpassed 300.

1931: Our Lady of Lourdes—which now serves as Red Cloud Indian School’s second elementary school—became the second Catholic school to open on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

1934: The Indian Reorganization Act was signed into law, establishing today’s form of tribal government.

1942: As World War II intensified, Holy Rosary graduated its first high school class of five young men, known as the “fabulous five.”

1955: Holy Rosary Mission High School won the Catholic Indian Basketball Championship.

1967: Holy Rosary began teaching Lakȟóta language classes, over two decades before Congress passed the Native American Languages Act of 1990.

1968: The first Red Cloud Indian Art Show opened, showcasing and celebrating native and Lakȟóta art. Senator Robert Kennedy visited Pine Ridge and Holy Rosary, and the Indian Civil Rights Act was signed into law.

1969: To honor its Lakȟóta identity, Holy Rosary legally changed its name to Red Cloud Indian School.

1973: In February, approximately 200 members of the American Indian Moment (AIM) occupied the town of Wounded Knee to protest the United States government’s failure to meet its treaty obligations.

1975: Ordained by the Bishop of Rapid City, Steven Red Elk and Reno Richards became the first American Indians in the United States to serve as deacons. Three years later, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was signed into law.

1979: Chuck Cuny was appointed Red Cloud’s first Lakȟóta principal, as Red Cloud opened its new high school building. The previous year, Red Cloud established a fully incorporated and bicultural school board, including two Franciscan sisters, six Jesuits and eight Native Americans.

1980: While Red Cloud began closing its dormitories in the 1960’s, all boarding ended in 1980.

1982: Under the direction of Brother C.M. Simon, S.J, The Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School was founded to collect, preserve and exhibit native and Lakȟóta art. Today, The Heritage Center stewards a world-class collection of over 10,000 pieces of historical and contemporary native art, and hosts the Red Cloud Indian Art Show each summer.

1998: Following the destruction of the historic mission church in a devastating fire, a new Church of the Holy Rosary opened. Incorporating the shape of a medicine wheel into elements of its design, the church reflects the importance of both Lakȟóta and Catholic traditions and beliefs.

1999: The first Red Cloud student received the Gates Millennium Scholarship, covering the cost of their entire college education. Today, 63 Red Cloud students have received the scholarship, the highest per capita of any school in the country.

2003: Robert Brave Heart, Sr. became Red Cloud Indian School’s first Lakȟóta superintendent.

2008: Red Cloud launched the Lakȟóta Language Program—and today offers a comprehensive K-12 Lakȟóta language curriculum that includes a K-5 dual immersion elementary program.

2019: Red Cloud establishes Truth And Healing steering committee to explore the organization’s harmful history as a boarding school and explore the role the organization played in the Pine Ridge reservation’s separation of families, loss of culture, language, and spirituality.

2022: Red Cloud Indian School, Inc. begins doing business as Maȟpíya Lúta. Maȟpíya Lúta is the Lakȟóta words for Red Cloud. The organization wanted to honor their namesake Chief Red Cloud by using his name in Lakȟóta. The way he would have heard it, when he was alive.

2023: Maȟpíya Lúta celebrates 135 years of history!