Sioux Sanitarium

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Sioux Sanitarium
Construction Began 1898
Opened 1899, (boarding school) 1939, (sanitarium).
Closed 1933, (boarding school) mid 1960s, (sanitarium).
Current Status Active
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Rapid City, SD
Alternate Names
  • Rapid City Indian School
  • Sioux Sanitorium
  • School of the Hills
  • Sioux San Hospital
  • Rapid City Indian Health Service Hospital (current)


Boarding School[edit]

Built in 1898, the building first served as one of twenty eight boarding schools for Native Americans in the country. It was known as the Rapid City Indian School or School of the Hills. The school was part of the government’s plan to turn the people they perceived as uneducated savages, into civilized people. People from the Sioux, Cheyenne, Shoshone, Arapaho, Crow, and Flathead tribes were put in the school to be indoctrinated into the white man’s way of life. During thirty-five years of its history between 1898 and 1933, the Rapid City Indian School educated children in fourth through eight grades with occasional acceptances of students from lower grades, and in 1917, it extended its curriculum to the tenth grade. With their time regulated by bells and steam whistles, students at Rapid City spent half a day on academic learning and the other half on vocational training. Superintendent Jesse F. House (1904-22) had observed that proximity to the Rapid City public high school, the South Dakota School of Mines, and the Business College provided Indian students with a better educational environment at the Rapid City Indian School than at other Indian schools. Nevertheless, by 1920, the school had to end the practice of sending its graduates to these finer institutions because the students at Rapid City spent much of their time on vocational instruction "to keep the school running," and they could not master the academic subjects essential to pursuing a higher education The Rapid City Indian School was not an academically sophisticated institution and rarely produced well-educated or even vocationally well-trained students. The school did not fulfill the assimilation goals of the federal government. The Rapid City Indian School closed in 1933.


The school sat in limbo and a transitional period from 1933 to 1939, during which the school’s main building burned and was replaced with the huge building currently occupying the site. In 1939 the Sioux Sanitarium was opened at the location. The facility was created to treat Native Americans with tuberculosis. The building was then converted into a massive hospital called the Sioux Sanitarium for Native American TB patients in 1939. These years were the darkest in the institution's history. With no cure in sight, the doctors could only do experimental procedures such as removing organs to try and combat the disease. After the patenting of streptomycin, the hospital closed in the 1960s.

Present State[edit]

The building remained empty for many years until it was converted into a public hospital and named the Sioux San Hospital (derived from Sioux Sanitarium). The hospital still has numerous, unmarked graves around the campus; not only from the TB patients, but also from the Indian children. It has currently been renovated into a public hospital. Recently, reports have got out that the city plans to demolish the old and run down buildings to make way for state of the art medical buildings. As the buildings are so historical, debate was sparked almost instantly. Despite this, construction officials say the construction is years away, possibly even a decade. Nevertheless, many preservationists are trying to get Sioux San on the NRHP.


External Links[edit]