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 345 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 housed 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.


With 345 students, SMIS has over 50 faculty and staff lead by President Dot Teso and Principal Tazbah Yazzie.

Just over half of the current faculty and staff of the school are alumni. 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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