The role of the Catholic Missionaries in Sioux Reservation : A case study of a missionary school's activity in the Pine Ridge Reservation
Suzuki Yasuko
In Native American history, missionary schools and boarding schools have often been regarded as the vanguard of Westernization, civilization, as well as a destructive force to their native culture. However, today one can find the Red Cloud Indian School ― a school with missionary roots ― standing on the grounds of Pine Ridge Reservation. What does this tell us about the relationship between the Catholic missionaries and the native tribes and what does this school represent?
In 1870, President Grant's peace policy assigned all reservations according to the denomination of the Christian faith, with Pine Ridge and Rosebud being assigned to Protestants. Appealing the government's ruling, Red Cloud and other commanding chiefs expressed their wishes to invite the Catholics to their reservations instead. This resulted in the opening of the missionary-run Holy Rosary Mission School ― later renamed Red Cloud Indian School ― on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Students at the school were taught basic reading, writing, arithmetic and skills immediately useful for employment. Many graduates who acquired English language skills through strict tutoring, which sometimes involved corporal punishment, went on to assume leading roles within their tribe.
The Catholic missionaries maintained a friendly relationship with the Lakota; and by adapting their culture to Christian beliefs and rituals, they managed to induce more Lakotas to their church. By offering English language and skill-based education, financial aid and advice, the Catholic missionary's presence on the reservation soon became beneficial to the Lakota, who were faced with social difficulties and poverty.
Taking the Red Cloud Indian School as an example, I intend to investigate the significance of missionary schools and the role they play within the Indian reservations..