‘It hurts our hearts’: Indian school focuses on safety at end of year

Wind River Sky Imagery: Visit to St. Stephens Indian School

‘It hurts our hearts’: Indian school focuses on safety at end of year

Wednesday, May 18, 2022


the St. Stephens Indian School ends the academic year after the entire administration is ousted following an investigation into the Wyoming educational institution’s toxic work environment. In a May 13 statement, Acting Superintendent Blakke Bertram said St. Stephens has focused on student safety for the remainder of the 2021-2022 school year. Classes end this week and next week at the establishment on the Wind River Reservation. “St. Stephens Indian School is committed to helping our students and our community move forward during this difficult time,” Bertram said in the statement, released before Traditional Week, where students are encouraged to wear moccasins, ribbon shirts, and ribbon skirts at the end of the academic year. “We have a caring staff working hard to complete the 2021-2022 school year for our students,” Bertram continued. “We assure our community that our staff will conduct themselves with professionalism and best practices to help our students continue to learn and be safe for the rest of the school year and moving forward.” “It hurts our hearts that our students and community have had to endure these challenges,” Bertram added.

Bertram was appointed acting superintendent following an investigation by the Indian Bureau of Education which corroborated accounts of sexual harassment, bullying and drug use by St. Stephens administrators. The survey was requested by the Wind River Intertribal Council, which is made up of the leadership of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and the Northern Arapaho Tribe on the reservation. “We are working hard with the BIE and the Intertribal Council to address all policies, procedures and practices to prevent this from happening again,” Bertram said in the statement. “All sports and events, including graduation, will remain as scheduled.” The BIE investigation focused primarily on the actions of Superintendent Frank No Runner, High School Principal Matthew Mortimore, and Elementary School Principal Greg Juneau. All three are no longer listed as employees of St. Stephens. No Runner’s wife, Pattee Bement, is no longer listed as an employee either. The school is part of the BIE system and was operated by the St. Stephens Indian School Educational Association, Inc. under a self-determination contract since 1975. A report published in the Cowboy State Daily Tuesday raised questions about the entity or entities that can exercise employment decisions in St. Stephens. Neither the BIE nor the Bureau of Indian Affairs responded to the outlet’s request for comment, according to the story. According to the Cowboy State Daily, the FBI is investigating the allegations in St. Stephens. The information was attributed to a spokesperson for the US Attorney’s Office in Wyoming. Along with the departure of St. Stephens trustees, all school board members have resigned, leaders of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and Northern Arapaho Tribe announced May 9. The names of those who had served on the board are no longer listed on the board’s website. A “special meeting” of the board of directors is taking place on Thursday evening, according to a notice published on st-stephens.net which was also posted on social media.

Relevant documents

Bureau of Indian Education Administrative Investigation: St. Stephens Indian School (April 2022)
St. Stephens Indian School Educational Association, Inc., Must Improve Fiscal Accountability of Federal Funds (March 2021)

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