May 19, 2017; Indian Country Today
The Jesuit St. Francis Mission announced that it is relinquishing 525 acres of unused land within the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The federal land grant to the mission, made when the tribal reservation was established in the late 1880s, was intended to support the mission’s educational activities serving the Sicangu Lakota people living on the reservation. The St. Francis Mission will continue to hold land on the reservation where it has active operations.
Indian Country Today reports, “It’s now time to give back to the tribe all of those pieces of land that were given to the church (by the federal government) for church purposes,” said Rev. John Hatcher, president of St. Francis Mission, in a YouTube video. “We will never again put churches on those little parcels of land.”
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The Jesuits are a Catholic order of priests officially known as the Society of Jesus. Founded in France in the 16th century by St. Ignatius of Loyola, Jesuits are evangelical missionaries heavily involved in education, healthcare, and social justice activities.
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the Mission have been in land negotiations for five years. Hatcher points to the transfer as a declaration that “we’re out of the property business, and we’re out of a colonial approach to the work of mission.”
Russell Eagle Bear, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, was involved in the land transfer negotiations. He said, “We’ve got to hand it to the Catholic organization for doing this. It’s a big thing, just the idea of returning land. We’ll see if some of the (other churches) will follow suit.”—Michael Wyland