St. Michaels Mission and Historical Museum, St. Michaels, Arizona (Video)

St. Michaels Historical Museum and Mission is in the town of St. Michaels, Arizona, located on the eastern slope of the Defiance Plateau in Black Creek Valley, three miles west of Window Rock. The valley has an interesting history, including a tale about how a man from a rival Navajo group warned the local Indians of an ambush a group of Mexicans intended to spring on them at an agreed-upon prisoner exchange. Tall Syphilis had accompanied the Mexicans from Cebolleta, but when the Mexicans hid a canon with plans to shoot at the Navajos as they congregated for the exchange, he decided to warn the intended victims. In appreciation, the group invited Tall Syphilis to join them. He accepted and was later one of the signers of the Navajo Treaty of 1868 under the name of Delgadito.

The Franciscans founded the mission in 1898 at the invitation of Reverend Mother (now saint, canonized in 2000) Katharine Mary Drexel, head of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament of Philadelphia, who donated the site and had plans to establish a convent and a school for Indian children there.

Father Juvenal Schnorbus with Father Anslem Weber founded St. Michaels Convent and St. Michaels Indian School (SMIS) in 1902. The mission was for many years the headquarters of Father Weber’s fight for Navajo lands. The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament managed the boarding school.

SMIS is the only Catholic school on the Navajo Nation. Initially an elementary and industrial boarding school for Navajo children, it later attracted Native American youth from other tribes. As the school's popularity grew, a student chapel, gym, and other buildings were added. In 1950 a high school was built. In 1966 the high school became an all girls school. In the early 1980s the boarding school was phased out and it once again served both boys and girls. In 1993, St. Michaels Indian School was incorporated as a nonprofit organization. SMIS has received many educational achievement awards, and it is considered one of the top Catholic Schools in the nation. 

The original adobe mission and its historic interior have been preserved as a museum, interpreting missionary and reservation life at the turn of the century. The mission continues to serve the people of the St. Michaels community. 

Video Credits:

Interior and Exterior Videographer - Brandon M. Ortega 
Interior Photographer - Santiago Moratto 
Additional Photos -