When traveling along the Missouri River in South Dakota you might come across a massive statue that has recently been erected in honor of the Native American Culture of the Great Plains Region. Subsequently, the statue is hard to miss, boasting a striking woman in traditional dress, and a scarf that carries a lot of meaning. At last, “Dignity” has been put there to represent the hardships the native American tribes went through over the centuries.
The Lakota and Dakota tribes have resided in the South Dakota Great Plains region for thousands of years. They are two parts of a confederacy of different tribes that were first known to settlers as the Oceti Sakowin, or “Seven Council Fires,” the women of these tribes have been overlooked and underestimated for centuries. So, to show some respect to the neglected people of that demographic, artist Dale Claude Lamphere created a 50-foot sculpture made out of stainless steel. It is in the form of a Lakota woman dressed in a traditional dress and wearing a scarf with a star pattern that dazzles the eyes, no matter if you are seeing it during the day or at night.
Three different models were used as references to create the woman’s facial features. Each model was in a different age group. Also, the hair of the sculpture is styled traditionally in two braids down each side. Dale got inspiration from the 1850s two-hide dress designs that the women used to wear. The dress he created for the sculpture reflects that style, but the most eye-catching part of the creation is her scarf.
So, in Native American culture, a scarf was a great sign of honor and respect. The woman is holding her scarf in a way that makes it look like it is catching the wind, showing off 128 diamond shapes made of stainless steel. As the wind blows past the statue, the diamond panels flutter, as if the material is moving. During the day, the panels look different and reflect the light in amazing ways. Lastly, at night, there are LED lights that shine on the diamond shapes and offer a mesmerizing aesthetic.
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Every artist has a reason behind their work and for Dale, it was to represent unification. He wants the statue to reflect shared beliefs. “My intent,” Dale says, “is for the sculpture to stand as an enduring symbol of our shared belief that all here are sacred and in a sacred place.”
He went on to explain the meaning behind his work in further detail. He has high hopes for the sculpture’s influence over the people who come to see it. “Dignity represents the courage, perseverance, and wisdom of the Lakota and Dakota culture in South Dakota,” he said. “My hope is that the sculpture might serve as a symbol of respect and promise for the future.”
So in 2014, Dignity was gifted by Norm and Eunabel McKie of Rapid City in celebration of South Dakota’s 125 years of statehood. It cost $1million to create. In an interview, Norm mentioned that he is usually apprehensive when it came to spending that amount of money, but he was “all smiles,” when Dignity was proposed.
Governor Dennis Daugaard said: “This gift will mean a lot to South Dakota. In addition to being the state of Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, South Dakota will also be the state of the Dignity statue.”