A 50 foot statue named Dignity of Earth and Sky now stands along the Missouri River and Interstate 90 near Chamberlain, S.D. The statue depicts a young Lakota woman wrapping a star blanket around her shoulders.
The dedication ceremony was held on Saturday, September 17. James Snyder, the Master of Ceremony, opened the dedication ceremony with a few words of thanks.
“Without their dedication, vision, patience and perserverence, Dignity would not be where she is today.”
Snyder asked Dale Claude Lamphere, the Black Hills artist who created Dignity, to stand so those in attendance could recognize him for all of the hard work he had put it to see his vision come to life.
There was a round of appause and a standing ovation.
“Dale, even the dog stood up for that one,” said Snyder.
Crafted entirely out of stainless steal, Dignity is a 12-ton creation and South Dakota’s newest landmark.
Troy Heinert, South Dakota State Senator and Rosebud Sioux Tribal member, discussed the meaning behind Dignity and spoke to how this statute could improve racial relations in South Dakota.
“Being a mixed-blood Lakota, I guess they figured I knew a thing or two about it,” he said with a smile.
“160 years ago, this could be my grandmother’s grandma standing there in this very spot knowing that her life was about to change forever. Back then life was lived on simpler terms. It’s what we call oewashtea. That means to live with all of creation with humility, respect, compassion and dignity. We have lost much of that way of life through assimilation, government policies, reservation dynamics, prejudice and sadly racism.”
But, Heinert reminds us that there is hope.
“I believe she was sent here to open our hearts and our minds. Her outstretched arms are inviting us into her blanket where we can learn from each other, acknowledge our differences and celebrate our similarities…
“Her presence and spirit will offer a guiding hand on how we treat all of humanity for generations to come. She will be the catalyist for change and a constant reminder that we all have a unique story that needs to be heard…
Let us come together for the good of our future with dignity in our hearts.”
“[Dignity] represents the pride and strength and durability of the native cultures here,” Lamphere said.
Lamphere spent years researching the project, borrowing features from three different Lakota models ages 14, 29 and 55.
Keeping with the traditional garb, art and customs of the Lakota and Dakota people, Lamphere included a star quilt in the sculpture.
“The star quilt represented in this piece is very meaningful in the Lakota and Dakota cultures. When a baby is born, they’re wrapped in a star quilt because they came down from the stars so to speak. That’s what people will see as they drive by on Interstate 90, just as they drop into the Missouri River basin, they’ll see the star quilt right on the edge of the horizon,” Lamphere said.
The quilt will be lit by LED lights at night so that light will shine through the star.
“This is a work that will be a gift to all the people of South Dakota,” Lamphere said. “We certainly hope that it becomes a symbol of better relationships among all cultures here in the region.”
The artist’s next big project is the Arc of Dreams that will span the Big Sioux River in downtown Sioux Falls.
Did you miss the event? If you want to watch the dedication ceremony in its totality, head on over to South Dakota Public Broadcasting where their staff have uploaded the entire program to their website. Enjoy!