Children of the Rapid City Indian Boarding School are being remembered in impactful ways

The Rapid City Indian School was in operation from 1898 to 1933.
Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 7:03 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Curators of a new art exhibit are hoping to bring more education and attention to an old boarding school in Rapid City.

It’s a way to honor their lives and their memories.

“It began as a research project, searching for graves of children who had passed away while at the boarding school. A bunch of volunteer researchers, a bunch of newbie researchers, dove into this project trying to figure out where those graves might be, and did discover that there are some unmarked graves on the hillside behind West Middle School. In our research, we found that over 50 children died while attending the Rapid City Indian Boarding School in its time of operation. The intention of the project is to protect, honor, and remember those children, and this story,” said Amy Sazue, executive director of the Remembering The Children Memorial.

Children were taken from their tribes, including the Great Sioux Nation, Northern Cheyenne, and Flathead.

“All of us carry this story in our blood. So it’s important that the community understands that, and knows that what happened here has affected all of us even to this day. The story of this school, and what happened to the children there and this land, has affected every single one of us that lives in Rapid City today,” Sazue continued.

Sazue says this impacts a significant percentage of the Rapid City Native American community.

“Cuz boarding school trauma is the impetus of historical trauma for our people. Along with the dislocation and taking of our lands, but boarding school trauma is real and every single indigenous person that you know, is a descendant of somebody who went to boarding school,” said Sazue.

Sazue went on to say many people from the Native American community are descendants of the children who survived.

“My great-grandmother was one of the first students at Carlisle, and her name was Sophie American Horse. And generations after her were all subject to the abuses and neglect, and all the cultural genocide that the boarding schools represented. I’m a product of that genocide. For me to be able to address that, and help the people to heal and especially this community of Rapid City for us to heal so we can become more part of the community, and I’m just honored to be part of this,” said Joe Pullian, owner of Tusweca Gallery.

The exhibit is located in downtown Rapid City at 631 Main Street, and will run through Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.