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Unused land returned to Rosebud Reservation

Since 1886, the Jesuits have lived and worked among the Lakota people on the Rosebud Indian Reservation.  On May 2, St. Francis Mission returned 525 acres of unused church land to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe (RST).

Present for the transfer of land were President William Kindle and Vice President Scott Herman of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe; Fr. John Hatcher, S.J., president of St. Francis Mission; and Rodney Bordeaux, COO of St. Francis Mission.

In 1881, Chief Spotted Tail formally invited Jesuit priests, known as “Black Robes,” to educate the Lakota people. The federal government, and in some cases, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe granted to Saint Francis Mission land to support a school, and to build churches and cemeteries throughout the reservation. These arrangements were to remain in place as long as the Mission used the land for such purposes.

Eventually, 23 mission stations were built with some stations encompassing as much as 40-80 acres of land in order to support Native Catechists and their families. As the Native population moved off the prairie and into cluster housing, the churches closed, while the Mission retained possession of the land.

“Saint Francis Mission should not continue to hold land that it is no longer using for Church purposes,” said Father John Hatcher, S.J., president of St. Francis Mission. “The Mission is not in the property business. I am grateful to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe for the use of this land and happy that we can return it for the use of the Lakota people.”

Through the proactive efforts of the St. Francis Mission—in cooperation with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs—all unused land will now be returned, except for where the Mission has active operations.

“It is time to get the land restored back to the Tribe, the rightful owners,” said Rodney Bordeaux, chief operations officer at St. Francis Mission. “These lands were used in an honorable way, but now that they are no longer needed, this is the appropriate thing to do.”


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