TRUTH AND HEALING
at Red Cloud Indian School
Red Cloud Indian School has a long history in this community, beginning with its founding as Drexel Mission in 1888, after the financial assistance given by St. Katharine Drexel. Soon after those initial years, the name became Holy Rosary Mission. Young Lakota people who have come to this place over the last 130 plus years have numerous experiences and stories to tell, both of tragedy and of success. We acknowledge deeply those tragic stories from our Boarding School history, knowing that much of what occurred harmed families for generations to come. We know we must address that history openly in order to authentically fulfill the promises we make to our students and families today.
The oldest building on campus, Drexel Hall, sometimes referred to as the “old mission building,” has a complex history. It was the first major construction project on our campus, funded, as mentioned, with a generous donation from St. Katharine Drexel. The first class of students, community members, along with the Jesuit brothers, labored to make the clay bricks from the nearby creek. Although the boarding of the boys moved to Red Cloud Hall in the 1920s, over the years Drexel Hall has been the site of the girl’s dormitory, as well as the residence for the Jesuits and Sisters, The Heritage Center, and offices.
Over the years hundreds of community members have left their mark on the building as new graduates by writing or carving their names into the bricks of Drexel Hall. What may have begun as a small act of resistance, those names now present a compelling picture of the many lives who’ve been impacted by this place. A through line from each generation is recorded on the very walls and bricks of Drexel Hall. There are stories embedded in each name, many lost to us as each generation leaves this world.
As we address our history as a boarding school, we know the most important voice in that journey is of survivors and their descendants—including those who carved their name into the bricks of our oldest building. Those names must never be lost or ignored. And for that reason, we are reaching out to our community for perspectives, insights, and concerns on what should be done with Drexel Hall, by helping us to answer some key questions:
What should the future of Drexel Hall be? Should it be kept intact as much as possible? Should it be replaced entirely with a new building? Could something that tries to do both be possible?
It is important to us, as we imagine the future of Red Cloud’s campus, that the voices of the community and the history they hold in their stories matter.
Yet whatever happens to the building itself, the history Drexel Hall represents will live on in our work on Truth and Healing. Any future changes to our campus will include intentional space and resources to name, know, and remember our history and what we learn from it.