In 1891, a Benedictine missionary living on Standing Rock Reservation would travel to Cherry Creek to say Mass but due to the long distance it was not very often. Records show the first Mass in Cherry Creek was at the Little Bear Cabin. The first priests to attend to St. Joseph Church came from the Cheyenne Agency. In 1892, a new priest to the Cheyenne Agency arranged for a church to be built. Lumber was hauled from Pierre. The church was completed in 1893 and served as the location for the Indian Congress that year. Mass was said monthly or as often as a priest could travel to the town.
It was during this time, Indian Catechists were introduced to the parishioners. The catechists would gather people for prayer and religious instruction on Sundays when no priest were available. I
n 1911, Father John Vogel, a diocesan priest, was assigned to Eagle Butte and its missions. He never drove a car, instead, he used saddle horses (Specky and Spotty) and a buggy to travel around to communities saying Mass and giving religious instruction.
Father Vogel was beloved by the Cheyenne River people. He was given the Indian name Zintcala (Bird). Later, in the early 1980s, a church hall was built at Cherry Creek. It was name “Zintcala Hall.”
When Father Vogel left the area in 1937 the Priests of the Sacred Heart (SCJ) were asked by the Diocese of Rapid City to serve Cherry Creek and the other missions since they had already taken on the rest of the reservation. Since the early 1980s, sisters from several religious orders provided religious studies for children and served as part of the reservation ministries. In 1990, a “Team Ministry” approach was set up between the priests, deacons and sisters that lasted until the early 2000s. In 2004, due to a lack of vocations, the SCJ priests could no longer minister to the reservation and the diocese again began ministering to the missions of Eagle Butte. In 2017, after accepting an invitation by Bishop Robert Gruss, the Holy Spirit Priests from India came to minster to the Cheyenne River Parishes joining current pastor Father Dan Juelfs.
(Historical information courtesy of Marquette University, Diocese of Rapid City, Crusading Along Sioux Trails, letters and other resources.)