Pipestone Indian Boarding School


Last Updated: 6 years

The Pipestone Indian Boarding School opened in 1893 as a sister school to Flandreau, fifteen miles to the east of Flandreau, but located within Minnesota.

Almost from the outset, the Pipestone Indian School acted in equal capacities as a service center for education, health, and federal administration for enclaves of dispossessed Santee Sioux.

Pipestone also supervised the Birch Cooley (Coulee) Day School from 1899 until it closed in 1920.

Unlike the Flandreau Indian Boarding School, which primarily facilitated the needs of the Flandreau Sioux, Pipestone provided an education for Chippewa, Cheyenne, Blackfoot, and Winnebago, as well as Santee Sioux children.

The school also offered a curriculum that mirrored Flandreau’s in its effort to assimilate fully the American Indian children. 

Located two miles North of Pipestone, Minnesota, the school was constructed on 640
acres of excellent land, with 150 acres set aside for cultivation . The rest was left as
pastures/meadows for the school livestock and wild prairie grasses that provided hay for
the school.

The tract of land was originally set aside for the Yankton Sioux Indians by
the eighth Article of the treaty of April 19, 1858, in which tribal members were given free
and unrestricted use of the Red Pipestone Quarry for religious reasons.

The original structure of the school included a two-story stone building that included laundry and boiler house, a store house, shop buildings, a house stable, a cow stable, a chicken house, and two water closets.

The federal government originally constructed this first structure for $10,000, and in its entirety, it was larger than Flandreau Indian School.

The Secretary of the Interior issued the first official report of the Pipestone Indian
Boarding School in the fall of 1894. Inspector McCormick commented on the school’s large enrollment of pupils for the first year of operation.

He listed several students under the age of five, who needed extra attention from the matrons.

The overall capacity for the school within the first decade of operation was at seventy-five, which was less than that of Flandreau Indian School at 150 students. The ultimate goal of Pipestone was to facilitate upwards of 150 youngsters, but until then Flandreau was responsible for accommodating the overflow.

In terms of the facility buildings, McCormick suggested that there be renovations
made in plastering, locks and doors repaired, insulation provided, and windows washed.

He also noted that the children maintained the buildings and grounds. McCormick’s only
suggestions were that the laundry room and boiler room be separated because of fear of
fire, and that they employ a regular physician at $100 “per annum”. 

Inspector A. J. Duncan issued another survey of the school in the spring of 1900.
Depicting Pipestone as a non-reservation boarding school, he described the facilities as
“superior buildings of stone” constructed of red pipestone from the nearby quarry.

In his overview, he mentioned the general dormitory, kitchen, dining room, and employees’
quarters, which were all heated by steam and lighted by gas.

Duncan’s only complaints were cosmetic, suggesting that the boiler be replaced, that the school construct a new dormitory to relieve overcrowding, purchase a new laundry machine ( concern for crushed hands and arms), and re-plaster the buildings. 

Duncan’s other observations were placed under separate sub-headings and took a
more “holistic” approach to the physical plant/staff than did the previous surveys.

He included information on the water supply and fire protection program. The water supply
came from 200 feet beyond the main building, in a tank of seventy-five feet that carried up to 500 barrels.

The pump elevation was six feet and supplied bathing water to all buildings. The school’s fire protection program was more than adequate, in Duncan’s view. The school had a fire hose connected to the water supply in every hall, and the children were frequently organized into fire brigades with regular fire drills.

The superintendent of the schools personally supervised all of this. Finally, Duncan reported that the school grounds boasted several shade trees and fruit trees, with a stock of four horses, twenty cows, and 83 sheep. Duncan also reported that there
were 100 children in attendance. 

By 1915, Pipestone rested on 685 acres worth $41,000 with twenty-six buildings
worth $80,000. There were seven separate heating buildings worth $3,000, that supplied
nine buildings a year with heat.

The electric system operated yearly at $2,250 and the water system and sewer system were $4,500 and $800 a year, respectively. The total cost of the school plant was $150,000.

Pipestone also featured a health facility that was worth $5,925 a year.

Some of the improvements that were suggested in this respect included the remodeling of the boys’ dorms to resemble those at Flandreau Indian School, a new sanitary system for the boys, and remodeling of the basement in the boys’ dorms.

Other general repairs or construction projects included extending the electric power system, indoor gymnasium, a domestic science building with equipment, central heating plant and power house, more sleeping porches, a new shop, and building a new basement for the girls’ dorm. 

The Commissioner of Indian Affairs ended his report by praising the dairy barn and yard, with its top-quality herd and the excellent supply of playground equipment. More specifically, a baseball diamond, two basketball courts, one tennis court, two giant strides, twelve swings, two ladders, twelve flying rings, two horizontal bars, one climbing
pole, three slides, and one football field.

He also praised the required military drill with eighteen to twenty minutes of daily marching.

Before closing, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs underscored the need for an
indoor gymnasium and domestic science building, a central heating plant, powerhouse,
and sleeping porches for tuberculosis patients. He also recommended that an alarm
system be installed in the girls’ dorm.

Other suggestions included partitions in the girls’ dorm closets and that Pipestone students should have free and open access to the Birch Cooley Day School playground.

A year prior to this, the Commissioner had asked for more funds for a school library and a separate home economics building.

As the school rapidly expanded during the 1910s, the staff had trouble exponentially matching federal funds for new buildings and necessary repairs.

In the 1920s, the Pipestone Indian Boarading School continued to act as a focal point for activity within the Indian Field Service and the local community, while financing structural

For instance, in 1924 Pipestone built a Dutch Colonial-style domestic service cottage at a cost of $3,500, with labor furnished by the Pipestone student body. In terms of sharing excess supplies between area schools such as Pipestone, Flandreau, and other area agencies, this was a common occurrence. More specifically, they shared beds, refrigerators, and toilet paper. 

In1924, the Superintendent of Lower Brule Agency offered a requested extra refrigerator to be shipped from Lower Brule to Pipestone Indian School.

Similarly in February of 1926 Superintendent J.F. House of Flandreau Indian School respectively asked that Pipestone fudian School be authorized to transfer 200 single beds. These were shipped by freight from Pipestone to Flandreau, with the charges paid for by “Indian Money”, proceeds of labor, and the Flandreau School.

This example reflected active communication within the community and Indian Field Service in regarding supplies.

The final decade for Pipestone came in the middle of John Collier’s New Deal, as it
reached its fruition and then subsequently was replaced by the termination/relocation era
of the late 1940s and early 1950s.

As a result of the legislative revolution during the 1930s, there was a simultaneous push for curriculum reform and boarding school closures in favor of day schools, which Pipestone adhered to.

After sixty years of operation, Pipestone Indian School closed its doors for the last time in 1953 after undergoing a variety of shifts in staffing, programming, and grade changes.

From its inception to its closure, Pipestone, like Flandreau Indian School, acted as an
area office, health facility, and academic setting for dispossessed Native peoples.

The schools also provided a central tribal identity for a Dakota people that were living as
individual citizens on separate plots of land or as enrolled members of other bands of
Sioux on the Santee or Yankton reservations in Nebraska and South Dakota.

With political backing from South Dakota U.S. Senator, Richard F. Pettigrew, the immediate goal of either facility in the 1890s was to simply educate and assimilate the Native population.

Within a relatively short period of time, it was obvious that both institutions went beyond merely serving as academic settings. In reality, each anchored the local white and Native American populations by providing employment, healthcare, and education for the community.

Through several decades of changes in leadership, curriculum philosophies, and various building projects, both schools managed to maintain their presence in the region well into the twentieth century.

Pipestone closed, however, due to direct pressures from New Deal legislation.