Pine Ridge School History »

Pine Ridge School is located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Oglala Lakota Nation, in the southwest corner of South Dakota. It provides accredited educational services for approximately 1000 Oglala Lakota children in grades kindergarten through twelve. The school influence is felt throughout the state and nation, but more directly in the village and surrounding area, serving the towns of Batesland, Porcupine, Manderson, Oglala, and Kyle. Covering approximately 311 square miles, Pine Ridge School has a major impact on the heritage and future of approximately 20,000 residents. The Oglala Lakota nation remains the second largest Indian Reservation in the United States, compromising approximately 2,786,578 acres or 4,353 square miles, an area twice the size of Delaware.

It is a nation rich in history as any ancient culture founded upon a way of life, culture, society, language, value and custom. This is a foreign land to most Americans. It is a land of traditionalism and ritual well beyond the experience of most nonnative people. The Oglala Indian Trading School, as named at the turn of the century, was established at noon on February 8, 1879, by the United States Government and is one of the few remaining reservation dormitory schools for Native American students in this country. The original government school was built on the site of the present Pine Ridge Agency but burned in 1893. The school was then moved on half mile away and across the White Clay Creek to separate the agency and the school. This new school opening in 1897 in a campus setting with a pow wow ground in the center. It was written the land for the original Oglala Indian Trading School was set aside in a solemn ceremony with Chiefs Red Cloud, Red Dog, American Horse, Little Wound, Lone Bear, Slow Bulls and Young Man Afraid of His Horses present.

Following is a historical excerpt:


Pine Ridge Agency, Dakota Territory

February 8, 1879

At twelve o'clock noon of this date the cornerstone of the School House at Pine Ridge Indian Agency was laid, and the following named Sioux Chiefs were present: Red Cloud, Red Dog, American Horse, Little Wound, Lone Bear, Slow Bull, Old Man Afraid of His Horses. The Oglala Sioux, under Red Cloud, are in a peaceable and well disposed condition, and the sentiment of the tribe is, and has been, that they particularly want their children, "educated in the English language. Education, intelligence, and virtue when acquired make every people strong."

The dimensions of the School House are one hundred feet in length by thirty-four feet in width, and is made this large on account of the great size of the tribe, and to give immediate accommodation to the large number of pupils. The desire of the United States Government is to do everything in its power to assist the great tribe of the Oglalas, in making rapid progress toward civilization. This building is intended to be simply a plain comfortable school house for day scholars, it is hoped by the Government that every man among the Sioux will protect and cherish this building, and that as long as a piece of the lumber of which it is made shall last, and after that, the whole Sioux Nation will remain at peace with the United States Government which is as much their Government as that of the white man.

Dr. Jas Irwin, who has four years past acted as Indian Agent over the Sioux, is replaced by Dr. V.T. McGillycuddy just appointed U.S. Indian Agent at Pine Ridge Agency. The building will be constructed by Lorenzo Hobbs Esq., Master Mechanic, assisted by five carpenters whose names are as follows: Eleazer S. Cady, George Lash, Peter Morris, Leonard Hoppin, and Joseph Going. With best wishes for the prosperity and future greatness of the Sioux in the arts of peace, I pledge myself to work for their best interests and advancement. Honorable Carl Schurz is Secretary of the Interior, and Honorable E. A. Hoyt, Commissioner of Indian Affairs. End of excerpt. It is unknown where this excerpts originally appeared or who authored it. It was found in a file called School History in the old Pine Ridge High School. As you can see, the original intent of building of the school was to assimilate the Sioux. Today, the Pine Ridge School, the Oglala Lakota Nation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Office of Indian Education Programs, have all formed goals to preserve the Lakota language.

Pine Ridge School is now located on the west end of Pine Ridge Village. There is a high school building that was built in 1995, a two-story building that houses K-12 grades, a boys and girls dormitory, a dining facility, and several other buildings as well as school housing.

The school has had various mascots since 1879. Known first as the Pine Ridge Indians, Pine Ridge Braves, and Oglala Indians, then renamed as the Oglala Community Scarlet Warriors until 1957 when the high school mascot was changed to the Thorpes in honor of the Olympic Champion, Jim Thorpe. Oglala Community Thorpes later was renamed the Pine Ridge Thorpes in 1983.