Lakota students transform their high school
by Buddy Bell
After years of asking for their high school’s athletic jerseys to exhibit Lakota language, students of the former “Red Cloud Indian School” at Pine Ridge, S.D., have inspired an official school name change to Maȟpíya Lúta. This name, when translated to English, means “Red Cloud,” the Oglala Lakota leader who defeated a contingent of the U.S. Army in “Red Cloud’s War” in 1866 before conceding to life on a reservation in 1868.
Maȟpíya Lúta school, founded in 1888 as “Holy Rosary Mission school,” has a department dedicated to revitalizing and saving the same Lakota language and culture that mission schools nearly destroyed. Lakota activists have partnered with school administrators to search for unmarked graves on school property and to uncover other evidence of past genocide and abusive practices. Still, while some of the Maȟpíya Lúta administration are Lakota Sioux—including a daughter and granddaughter of American Indian Movement activist Dennis Banks—the Jesuit order of the Catholic church retains ownership and control of the school.
Last year, the International Indigenous Youth Council (IIYC), which arose out of the 2016 protest at Standing Rock, traveled on horseback to visit all former reservation boarding schools. When they arrived at what is now Maȟpíya Lúta school in mid-October, people followed them, marching with a banner that read, “We are the grandchildren of the Lakota you were not able to remove.” Some of the school’s own students and staff, including Jesuits, were in attendance. As the riders surrounded Holy Rosary church, IIYC called for the return of defunct church property to the tribe and that students be taught the history of the boarding school system.