The St. Francis Mission Among the Lakota

Ministry Spotlight

Editor’s Note: A couple weeks ago we were introduced to Corrie with the St. Francis Mission in St. Francis, South Dakota. My curiosity about the Mission was initially perked because our parish’s youth group spent a week volunteering in this area last summer, and after taking some time to explore their website, blog, and Facebook page, I am very impressed with the work this ministry is accomplishing and want to spread that good news with you here. ~ Lisa Schmidt

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The St. Francis Mission is a ministry of the Jesuits among the Lakota (Sioux) people on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The purpose of the Mission is to work with the Catholic Lakota people and bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who have not heard it.

The Mission was started in the 1880s – several of the Lakota chiefs who knew of the Jesuit’s reputation for running schools from previous contact with the Jesuits – went to Washington to see if the Jesuits (known by the Lakota as “Black Robes”) could be allowed to enter the reservation to teach their children.  In September of 1877, Chief Sinte Gleska (Spotted Tail), leader of the Sicangu Lakota and Chief Red Cloud, leader of the Ogalala, met with President Rutherford B. Hayes and formally requested that the Black Robes come to their lands to educate their people. Sinte Gleska told the President, “I would like to say something about a teacher. My children, all of them, would like to learn how to talk English. They would like to learn how to read and write. We have teachers there, but all they teach us is to talk Sioux, and to write Sioux, and that is not necessary. I would like to get Catholic priests. Those who wear black dresses. These men will teach us how to read and write English.” With the death of Sinte Gleska in 1881, Chief Two Strike invited the Jesuits to enter the Rosebud Reservation and begin a school.

Since that time, we have worked with the Lakota on the Rosebud Reservation. We respect the traditions of the Lakota people as we collaborate with them to meet the spiritual, educational, social, and physical needs of the community. The Mission is the largest not-for-profit organization on the Rosebud Reservation that is not a governmental controlled or funded program.  We support work in six parishes on the reservation, along with:

  • A fledgling dental clinic to help serve the severely underserved reservation community. Most of the dental care that is currently practiced on the reservation is merely palliative, which means that tooth extraction constitutes the usual method of on-reservation dental care.

    St. Francis Mission Clergy

  • Religious Education programs in four communities throughout the reservation to help educate children about God and the Catholic faith.
  • Two recovery centers (the Icimani Ya Waste Recovery Center and the White River Recovery Center) to address drug & alcohol issues on the reservation. We also work with the Betty Ford Center to provide educational programming to address the effects addiction has on the family.
  • KINI Radio is owned and operated by St. Francis Mission, broadcasting to all of the Rosebud Reservation and an audience of over 20,000 listeners. As the voice of St. Francis Mission, it offers programs for evangelization, religious education, national news, reservation news, and a wide variety of musical entertainment.

We survive on donations and from the prayers of those who know about us. If you’d like to learn more, you can visit us at, or like us on Facebook at!

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