Pipestone Indian Training School
The best source of information about the School is Cynthia Leanne Landrum’s 1995 doctoral dissertation The Acculturation of the Dakota Sioux: The Boarding School Experience for Students at Flandreau and Pipestone Indian Schools. The Pipestone County Historical Society has made its collection of photographs of the school buildings and students available in Digital Minnesota. The three images are from that source.
Pipestone Indian Training School was created in 1891 with classes beginning in February 2, 1893. Landrum says the goal of the school was “to transform the Indian population into model United States citizens who spoke English and were economically self-sufficient.” To that end the curriculum emphasized the English language, and vocational training. Students were required to speak English and wear the school uniform. By 1901 P.I.T.S. served grades kindergarten through eight. In 1906 enrollment was 215; it reached 375 in 1932. Originally all students were natives of Minnesota, with the Chippewa and Sioux tribes most prominent. Later students were recruited from outside the state. The Minneapolis Journal shows eleven tribes represented on the 1930 football team.
Students spent half of each day in the classroom, learning English and other subjects approved by the Minnesota Department of Education, so that they might assimilate into the public schools. The other half of the day went to industrial training—“Farming, gardening, carpentry, painting, masonry, engineering, auto mechanics, dairying, stock and poultry” for boys; “homemaking, cooking, sewing, baking and home nursing” for girls.
P.I.T.S. seems to have developed an active educational experience for its students. In1912 students began to publish a weekly student newspaper, the Peace Pipe, the first Indian newspaper in the nation. Among extracurricular activities were “Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Glee Club, Chorus, Y.M.C.A, Y.W.C.A. and literary societies, according to Landrum. She shows that the Domestic Club presented the drama Hiawatha in its outdoor setting. In addition the students celebrated Homecoming each year and enjoyed picnics and dances.
In the 1940’s the government began phasing out the school before closing it for good in 1953.
Bricks and Mortar
The 640 acre campus was located two miles north of Pipestone. The original building was a two-story structure made of locally quarried stone—Sioux Quartzite and red Pipestone. For the first year it served all school functions. Within a year, as the enrollment increased, three buildings were added—a boys’ dormitory, an academic building and a dining hall--also constructed of the local stone. When these were completed, the original building was renovated and became the girls’ dormitory. Further additions included a gymnasium and an industrial building. The last major addition was the hospital, built in 1932 at a cost of $78,000. It served the local community as well as the school.
When the school closed in 1953, it contained 60 buildings—most frame farm buildings and cottages. The hospital was razed in 1999, but the campus is largely intact today.
Original Building, later Girls' Dormitory. Note the 500-gallon water tower.
Team name: Indians
Colors: School uniforms were Blue and Red
While Pipestone Indian Training School never offered classwork beyond the ninth grade, it accepted students as old as 17, so sports teams were generally competitive at high school level. In a MNopedia article, Molly Huber notes that P.I.T.S. had organized a baseball team in the spring of 1893. Administrators felt that baseball was a good way to assimilate Native American students into the white culture, and so allowed teams to play away from campus against both white and native schools. Huber says that some of the Native American players earned pocket money during the summer playing for area teams.
She says that the high point of P.I.T.S. baseball was the period 1905-1910 when teams were most competitive.
College Football Data Warehouse shows football activity between 1908 and 1921. But in 1928 the team made headlines by defeating Lake Benton High School 122-0 in their homecoming game. The Minneapolis Journal highlighted the 1930 season in which a young team, averaging147 pounds, compiled a 7-3 record, outscoring opponents 220-72. Their most competitive game was in a loss to Flandreau Indian School.
In the 1930’s the government ended all sports at the Indian training schools.
The 1908 girls' basketball team.