The St. Francis Indian School and the religious mission that formerly ran the school are fighting over a $1.5 million bequest from a California woman's estate.
The money left by Dolores Cerro of Bakersfield, Calif., went to the St. Francis Indian School, which runs an elementary school and high school with more than 600 students on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation.
But the St. Francis Mission, a Catholic nonprofit organization, has gone to court arguing that it should receive the money.
Both organizations contend Cerro meant to give the money to them. The bequest says the money must be used only for improvements to the school property and for scholarships for students at the school.
A Rosebud Sioux Tribal Court judge has issued a temporary injunction preventing the school from spending any of the money until further evidence can be heard in the case. A hearing is set for Dec. 5, lawyers said.
St. Francis Mission, a Jesuit-controlled Catholic mission, ran the school on the reservation beginning in 1886 but turned it over to a parent-run organization in the early 1970s, according to court documents. The parent-run St. Francis Indian School, also known as Sicangu Oyate Ho Inc., has run the school for more than three decades.
Robert J. Doody, a lawyer for St. Francis Mission, said when the school changed hands in the 1970s, the two organizations signed an agreement that said bequests from the mission's donors would go the mission. Because so many organizations in the area have similar names, donations had previously wound up in the wrong hands, he said.
When a local newspaper article described the bequest to St. Francis Indian School, the mission recognized Cerro as a longtime donor who had given to the mission since 1988, Doody said.
"We believed the intent of the donor was to give the money to us because she was a long-term donor," Doody said. Yankton Press