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---- Wednesday - December 13, 2017 - 5:51:02 AM - Navajo Nation Time ----

St. Michaels
(Ts’íhootso - Mountainside Meadow)

St. Michaels is located above a well watered, wooded and verdant meadow on the western slopes of Black Creek Valley. St. Michaels was named after a Catholic Saint (Saint Michael) from the convent name (St. Michaels Convent) that exists at the site.

In the 1850s, the hillside near the Sisters at St. Michaels was the scene of a planned ambush by the Mexicans on the Navajos, frustrated by Tall Syphlis of the Diné Ana’ih (Enemy Navajos), who accompanied the Mexicans from Cebolleta. While the Navajos and Mexicans were making arrangements to exchange slaves, the Mexicans planted a cannon in a hidden spot, planning to fire it into the Navajos when they were all assembled. Tall Syphlis went to the Navajo camp and warned them. They invited him to join them. He accepted and was later one of the signers of the Navajo Treaty of 1868 under the name of Delgadito.

The Franciscan mission was founded by Franciscans in the town of St. Michaels in 1898 at the invitation of Mother Drexel. This was to prepare for her founding of St. Michaels Convent, and St. Michaels Indian School (SMIS) in October 1902. St. Michaels Convent and school were established by Father Juvenal Schnorbus with Father Anslem Weber as assistant. The site was donated by the Reverend Mother Katharine Drexel, head of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament of Philadelphia, in 1898. The mission was for many years the headquarters of Father Weber’s fight for Navajo lands. The Franciscans operate from here in general fieldwork with the Navajos.

The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament managed the boarding school. It is the only Catholic School on the Navajo Nation. SMIS was initially an elementary and industrial boarding school for Navajo girls and boys. Later, Native American youth from other tribes started to attend SMIS. As the school grew, a student chapel, gym, and other buildings were added. In 1950, a high school was built and added to SMIS. In 1966, the high school became an all-girls school. In the early 1980s, the boarding school was phased out, making it a school for both boys and girls. In 1993, St. Michaels Indian School was incorporated as a non-profit organization. SMIS has received many educational achievement awards making it one of the top Catholic Schools in the nation.

By Harrison Lapahie Jr.
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