SHERIDAN — Donovin Sprague, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, grew up in Dupree, South Dakota, on a reservation. As the first member of his family to achieve his college degree, the professor has focused his studies on his family ties regarding local history.
Native American history is the burning passion that Sprague will teach about as Sheridan College’s visiting professor of history. He will spend a spend a year on campus teaching a variety of courses in the college’s history department.
“When I accepted the position I told them, ‘This is like a homecoming because my tribe wasn’t just in South Dakota,” Sprague said. “Our home was along the Tongue River up to Dayton going into Montana, all along the Bozeman Trail, down to Buffalo and on to Casper — that was our home territory where we followed the buffalo.’”
Sprague studied at Black Hills State University, where he received a Bachelor’s of Science and a Master’s of Arts. But his true education came from studying the history that courses through his veins.
Sprague has been given the name, “The Keeper” within his tribe. He noted that the name was earned by keeping meticulous track of his family and tribal history.
Over time, the historian has written eight books about Sioux history. He has become the man that when someone has a question about the tribe, almost anyone will point to Sprague for answers.
“It’s such an honorable thing because it wasn’t given to me as a child, but like a chief I earned it over a long time and it’s a responsibility I will always keep,” Sprague said.
Sarah Sinclair, Sheridan College dean of instruction, said she is excited for the newest addition to the history department.
“When I grew up I was never aware of the history that I was surrounded by locally and I think our student body has a really neat opportunity to be in Mr. Sprague’s classroom to become more aware,” Sinclair said.
Sinclair is eager for Sprague to begin his position at the college because she thinks he will be able to expand their small history department.
“I think he can be so invested in the history that hopefully he’ll entice students to join a history class that might not otherwise spike their interest,” Sinclair said. “We want our history program to not just be a graduation requirement, but something kids want to actually learn about.”
Sprague hopes the student body is receptive to his teachings.
“It’s important for these young people to know your history and know your family roots to be connected because it makes your heart real strong,” Sprague said.
“Knowing where I come from, the history of the land and who came before me has given me so much purpose and a lot less wondering,” he continued. “I hope the same for the youth in my classroom.”
Sprague will start at the college Aug. 24 and classes will begin on Aug. 26.