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‘It hurts our heart’: Indian school focuses on safety as year comes to a close
Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The St. Stephens Indian School is closing out the academic year after the entire administration was ousted following an investigation into the toxic work environment at the educational institution in Wyoming.

In a May 13 statement, acting superintendent Blakke Bertram said St. Stephens has been focusing on student safety during the remainder of the 2021-2022 school year. Classes are wrapping up this week and next week at the facility on the Wind River Reservation.

“St. Stephens Indian School is committed to helping our students and community to move forward in this challenging time,” Bertram said in the statement, released ahead of Traditional Week, where students are encouraged to wear moccasins, ribbon shirts and ribbon skirts as the academic year winds down.

“We have a caring staff who are working hard to finish the 2021-2022 school year for our students,” Bertram continued. “We ensure to our community that our staff will conduct themselves with professionalism and best practices in helping our students in continuing to learn and be safe for the remainder of the school year and moving forward.”

“It hurts our heart that our students and community had to endure these challenges,” Bertram added.

Bertram was brought on board as acting superintendent following an investigation by the Bureau of Indian Education that corroborated accounts of sexual harassment, bullying and drug use by administrators at St. Stephens. The investigation was requested by the Wind River Inter-Tribal Council, which consists of the leadership of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and the Northern Arapaho Tribe on the resrvation.

“We are working hard with the BIE and Inter-Tribal Council to address all policies, procedures, and practices to avoid this happening again,” Bertram said in the statement. “All athletics 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 at 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 has been operated by the St. Stephens Indian School Educational Association, Inc. under a self-determination contract since 1975.

A news report published in the Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday raised questions about which entity or entities can exercise employment decisions at St. Stephens. Neither the BIE, nor the Bureau of Indian Affairs responded to the outlet’s request for comments, according to the story.

According to Cowboy State Daily, the FBI is looking into the allegations at St. Stephens. The information was attributed to a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Wyoming.

In addition to the departure of the administrators at St. Stephens, the entire membership of the school board stepped down, the leaders of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and the Northern Arapaho Tribe announced on May 9. The names of the individuals who had been serving on the board are no longer listed on the board of trustees’ website.

A “special meeting” of the board is taking place on Thursday evening, according to a notice published on that also was distributed on social media.

Relevant Documents
Bureau of Indian Education Administrative Investigation: St. Stephens Indian School (April 2022)
The St. Stephens Indian School Educational Association, Inc., Needs To Improve Financial Accountability for Federal Funds (March 2021)

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‘Truly a sad day’: Tribes take action to ensure safety at Indian school (May 9, 2022)