|Those rightly honored as the real pioneers of the Dakota Territory are of course, the members of the great Indian tribe from which this part of the Great Plains derived its name. The lives of the earliest pioneers of Caucasian origin were necessarily intermingled with the lives of the Sioux people. One of the influential white men in the early reservation days was certainly the Jesuit priest whose name, for close to half a century, was almost synonymous with the St. Francis Mission and School on the Rosebud Reservation.
This was Father Florentine Digmann, S.J. or, as the Sioux called him, “Putin Sapa – Black Bear.” He entered the Society of Jesuit on October 1, 1869. He had studied in Germany, Austria and England in preparation for ordination to the priesthood. In 1880 he was sent to the United States and in 1886 to the newly founded St. Francis Mission. <p>Father Florentine earned the title, “the Patriarch of the Mission.’ He not only fought endless battles for his school, of which he was superior most of the time, but made use of his prestige to get aid for any Indian who needed it. He saw St. Francis Mission rise out of nothing – to be considered as the most flourishing Catholic Indian School in the United States. <p>When the school burnt down, Father Floretine set out on a collecting tour throughout the mid-west, visiting all the large centers. He returned with enough funds to start rebuilding a better and larger mission. Much of the reconstruction of the present mission is due to his zeal.
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