The Pine Ridge Reservation lies tucked into the southwest corner of South Dakota and covers a vast area nearly the size of Connecticut. Stretching across the Great Plains, the reservation’s remarkable and distinctive landscape encompasses the rolling Black Hills, craggy Badlands, and wide open prairie. It’s home to Oglala Lakota, members of the Sioux tribe. It’s also home to the Red Cloud Indian School. Formerly an Indian boarding school, Red Cloud is now a Catholic institution run together by the Jesuits and Lakota people. One hundred and twenty-five years ago, Chief Red Cloud recognized the challenges threatening Lakota culture and traditions, and he asked the Jesuits to educate tribe members to “walk in two worlds,” so they could survive in a rapidly changing society, while maintaining their Lakota identities. Today, the Red Cloud School continues to honor the Chief’s vision through an innovative curriculum that includes Lakota language immersion and traditional cultural and spiritual education.
For many years, Sacred Heart Greenwich has enjoyed a friendship with the Red Cloud School that has included faculty visits, service learning trips for students, academic partnerships, such as book clubs and pen-pal programs, alongside student art exchanges and fundraising events. However, there have been no in-person visits since Covid, an event that hit the reservation exceptionally hard.
This spring break, three Sacred Heart Greenwich educators rekindled the program during a snowy trip to Pine Ridge. Dr. Mottolese, Upper School English teacher and English Department Chair, is a long-time friend of the Red Cloud School and familiar face on the reservation. He was joined by Cris Baptista, Upper School English teacher, and Maureen Considine, Campus Minister.
Their goal was to build new connections between the schools. In addition, Dr. Mottolese, Dr. Baptista, and Mrs. Considine offered professional development support for Red Cloud educators in the areas of English teaching and spiritual formation. They spent time in classrooms; observing instruction, working with students, and reviewing curriculum. “In all, I think we got as much or more out of it than the folks at Red Cloud,” said Dr. Mottolese. He noted that life on the reservation is complex, and since Covid, there have been great changes. “You really have to be there-to be on the ground-” said Dr. Mottolese, “to understand what life is like right now on the Rez and in the school.”
On Thursday, April 19, a small group of Red Cloud faculty members visited Sacred Heart Greenwich. Faculty and students were thrilled to welcome their Red Cloud friends back to Campus and look forward to the return of vibrant and active connections between our schools.