St. Michael Indian School has a long history of providing Catholic education. The School opened its doors in 1902 to serve 76 Navajo students. Now, 120 years later, SMIS educates 364 students in preschool through grade 12 in an environment that is rooted in Catholic values, teaches leadership skills, and encompasses Native American culture.
St. Michael Indian School was founded by Saint Katharine Drexel. In 1898, Mother (now Saint) Katherine invited and encouraged three Franciscan Friars, Fathers Juvenal, Anselm, and Brother Placid, to come visit from Cincinnati. During their time in the Navajo Nation, the Friars learned to speak and write the Navajo language.
Four years later, Saint Katherine Drexel founded St. Michael Indian School on December 3, 1902, with the help of the Friars, the local Navajo people, and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.
The Early Years
In 1907, St. Michael Indian School became a boarding school, housing 130 students. By 1921, the number of students had climbed to 200. The student chapel was built in 1926, the same year St. Michael Indian School saw a booming enrollment of 270 students. After a fire destroyed part of the school building, a new gym was completed in 1933.
The School Expands
In the early 1940s, St. Michael Indian School was almost a self-sufficient community with a finished chapel, gymnasium, and power plant that provided heat and electricity.
Enrollment was at 300 students, the maximum the school could accommodate, but the school continued to grow. In 1946, St. Michael Indian School began teaching high school classes and held its first commencement in 1950. By 1951, St. Michael Indian School had 350 students enrolled from 25 different tribes.
Managed by the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), St. Michael Indian School is one of seven schools across the United States in the American Indian Catholic Schools Network. With 364 students, SMIS has over 35 faculty and staff lead by President Dot Teso and Principal Tazbah Yazzie. The school’s partnership with Notre Dame ACE is driving campus renovation and building plans, allowing undergraduate architecture students from Notre Dame to learn about non-Western architectural design and create new spaces for SMIS.
Students at St. Michael Indian School are athletes, artists, and STEM enthusiasts educated in a vibrant and spiritual environment fostering holistic growth and 98% of SMIS graduates go on to college.
With the help of Catholic Education Arizona, incredible Catholic school students like those at St. Michael Indian School continue to thrive.
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