The History of Red Mesa Schools

History of Red Mesa Schools

On a cold and breezy spring day in 1960, several distinguished representatives from the community paid a visit to the hogan of Hosteen and Evelyn Kitsealy at their winter camp located at the mount of No Water Mesa. Mr Bradley Blair, Mr. Rosco McGee, both Anglo store owners, Mr. John Nelson Dee, Teec Nos Pos Council delegate, Mr. John Benally, Sweetwater Chapter president, and Kee Kitseally, son of Hosteen and Evelyn, approached his parents and said, "Hello, my mother and father, we are here to ask that a school be constructed on the north side of the highway on my grazing permit. I want a school nearby, so our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and other peoples' children can attend school. We do not want our children to go off the reservation to school or far away to seek for jobs. We want them to be around us to learn our Dine culture and the modern society." Mrs. Kitseally, sitting by the fire, with a fire poker beside her replied, "My children, I herd sheep all my life and don't know much about education, but yes, let there be a school. Let our children go to school and come back and work here." This was what the representatives wanted to hear. With this verbal approval, Hosteen and Evelyn Kitseally and most of their children later signed the agreement. From this cold day in 1960 came the vision to build the schools for the children of the area. Kee, Mary, Grace, Bessie, and Lucy were the children who gave their blessing to that vision. 1967 saw the ground being prepared for the eventual construction of Red Mesa Elementary School which began in 1970. At that time, Red Mesa was under the Chinle School district with Mr. John L. Mathews serving as superintendent. Dr. Blast Maxy was the principal of RMES which took in students from Dennehotso, Baby Rocks, Mexican Water, Sweetwater, Teec Nos Pos, Red Mesa, Arizona, and Utah.

In 1972, after the completion of the junior high brick building, and the dedication by Mr. Thomas Brady, Sr., a medicine man from Sweetwater, junior high students from the same areas began their careers at RMJHS.

Under the direction of Dr. Bob Roessell, superintendent of the Chinle School District #24, and the first principal of the high school, Mr. John Birdsong, the doors to the high school were opened to welcome a small group of students who had been meeting in the elementary school. The A, B, and C buildings were dedicated by Little Dan, a medicine man from Sweetwater.

In July of 1983, the Red Mesa Unified School District #27 was formed, splitting from the old Chinle School district #24. Other buildings have been added such as the high school gym (1987), the district administration building (1988), the parent education center (1996), the staff development center (1998), and the music-art-preschool (MAP) building (1999). This was the vision that prompted Kee Kitseally to ask his parents for permission to "build on the north side of the road."

Reprinted from the spring 1999 BRIDGES.

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The border on this page is from an authentic Navajo rug titled "Contemporary," by Sylvia Mike. Used with permission from Twin Rocks Trading Post.