By Vi Waln
ROSEBUD – A day school operated on the Rosebud Reservation at the turn of the 19th century will be featured in an upcoming book authored by museum curators.
The Lower Cut Meat Creek Day School was 1 of 21 day schools operated by the Indian Agency. The small building was located north of the present day Parmelee community and provided educational services to several Lakota students in the late 19th century. Lindsay Montgomery, a post-Doctorate researcher at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, met with descendants of students who attended the day school to provide information. She is collaborating with Curator Chip Cowell on the project.
The book is based on the collection of Jesse H. Bratley, who served as a teacher at the school during 1895-1899. His wife, Della (Ransom) Bratley, helped with the female students. During his time on the Rosebud, he took over 100 photographs and collected hundreds of items from the local people, including Swift Bear’s Winter Count depicting 100 years of Lakota history.
He also wrote an extensive autobiography, which included accounts of his experience at Rosebud. Montgomery provided copies of the portion of Bratley’s autobiography (pages 104-114) which detailed the time he spent at Lower Cut Meat. Excerpts of his writing is included in the following paragraphs.
The couple had 3 children during their time at Lower Cut Meat. They had a set of twin girls, Helen and Hazel, as well as a son named Homer. Helen died shortly after she was born. The couple buried her near Chief Spotted Tail’s grave in Rosebud, SD. The grave is unmarked.
Students who attended the school ranged in ages from 6 to 17. The school day began at 9am and ended at 4pm. Mornings were dedicated to learning subjects like reading, writing and math. Lunch was provided to all the students. The younger children were sent home at 2pm. The older students worked until 4pm.
The older girls spent their afternoons sewing. Mrs. Bratley helped them make clothing for the girls and for the smaller boys. They also made sunbonnets for the girls. Ready-made shirts and suits were furnished for the older boys.
The older boys worked outside in the afternoons. Bratley led them in building both a carpenter shop and a blacksmith shop. The boys made tables and stools for the students to take home.
He also taught the older boys how to irrigate crops by digging ditches. The school had a substantial garden. Potatoes, tomatoes, celery and cabbage were all added to the noon lunches for students.
He also enlisted the help of the older boys to build a pond to collect the run-off from the creek when the snow melted. He built an icehouse and the group harvested the ice from the pond each winter. In his autobiography, Bratley wrote “we had ice continuously to the end of the four years we were at this school. Our milk house was in front of the ice house and we set our milk and butter in the drain from the ice. The ice was something that no other of the twenty schools had” (page 106).
Following the orders of the Indian Agent, Bratley and his wife also bathed all the children every Monday morning. One of his accounts reads: “One time, when I was bathing the boys in the shop, I noticed a very white spot on the right thigh of Sammy Plenty-Holes, a six-year-old boy. I asked him what caused the white spot. He said, ‘I was shot.’ The bullet passed through his leg where the two white spots indicated.”
“I inquired of the mother, Mrs. Plenty-Holes, how it all happened. She said she was with Sammy, who was nearly one-year-old, in the Wounded Knee Battle, December 29, 1890, in which three hundred or more Indians were killed. . . Mrs. Howling-Elk, who received thirteen bullet holes, and her wounded baby, laid three days in the snow drifts and both survived. Sammy’s mother’s name was changed to Plenty-Holes on account of the thirteen wounds” (pages 108-109).
For more information on this project, please email Lindsay Montgomery at