The history of Pierre Indian Learning Center is memorable and rich with anecdotes of Indian life, celebrating a century of involvement in Indian education in 1988.
In 1888, the South Dakota Livestock Association of Pierre, Dakota Territory, gave a 20-acre tract of land to the United States Government, in the form of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, for an Indian Industrial School. The school itself, known as the Pierre Indian school, later purchased an additional 160 acres. The school buildings were constructed in time for the 1890-1891 school term, and featured separate dormitories for boys and girls, with bathrooms and iron bedsteads. The initial enrollment was five students.
In 1972 the Bureau of Indian Affairs began to reexamine the objectives and operation of the Pierre Indian School. Upon consultation and input from the Indian Tribes and Communities, in the service area of the school, a decision was made to continue the school but to change the purpose to a more specialized area.
After 1972, the school's new direction and goal was to design an educational program to meet the "special needs" of Indian students who could not be accommodated in their home communities. The "special needs" category can encompass a wide variety of criteria for acceptance into the Pierre Indian School. Some examples include students whom are homeless, students identified as socially maladjusted, academically behind, absenteeism, and truancy.
In 1974, under PL 93-638 (The Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act), the Indian Board of Education contracted for the full administration and operation of the Pierre Indian School. The Bureau of Indian Affairs gave the board full discretion and freedom in planning "their" school. The challenge was accepted by the Board and the Tribes made the decision to administer the school as a Center for students with behavioral problems. The name of the school was changed to the Pierre Indian Learning Center. Since 1974, an extensive planning project has been undertaken and implemented to provide an educational program to meet the special need of the children from the fifteen Tribes in the three-state area (North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska).
Today, The Pierre Indian Learning Center is a 24-hour residential facility serving Indian children from 15 tribes in a 3-state area. It is not a psychiatric facility, nor is it a juvenile detention facility. It is a unique alternative school for children with limited educational opportunities who, because of social or family problems, language differences, undiagnosed learning disabilities, truancy and other factors, have not been successful in schools on the reservation or in the home environment.
The Pierre Indian Learning Center currently occupies 193 acres of land and boasts eight buildings including the school, dormitory, maintenance facilities, administrative offices, woodshop, and the kitchen/dining areas. Recreational areas include playgrounds, horses, paintbox, ropes course, and a gymnasium.