Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Akota Lakota Museum and Cultural Center, South Dakota

We began the day at the smallest church we've ever seen. It is actually an addendum to a roadside rest not far west of Mitchell. We thought it was a dollhouse when we pulled off the road, but on investigating, realized it was a little chapel that someone created to give travelers a place to stop.  We did, and we appreciated the effort of this person.

I have no photos to show you of the most wonderful place we visited today, because we were not permitted to take photos inside The Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center.  This is a small but impressive museum at the Saint Joseph's Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota.

I did take a few photos in Chamberlain, however, as it seems that it ought to be a movie set.  I felt as if I had traveled back in time there.  It was calm and unsophisticated.  Photos will show you why.  I think the State movie theatre is now a video store, but the Rexall Drug is doing what it did long ago.

 The school was a bit out of town, and I shot a photo of the statue at the entrance to it.  I wish I could show you some of the magnificent sculptures that the Native Americans have on display in the museum, but alas..............                     

Students were spending their Sunday taking walks into town with their teachers or chaperones as we drove into the school. 

Driveway Sculpture
  We learned of this museum from a woman who works at the Welcome Center to South Dakota.  As we entered the state from Iowa and stopped for maps, she mentioned that this was a "gem" in the middle of the state that we might like.

She was right.

A brochure told us that the purpose of this cultural center is to honor, protect and promote the heritage and culture of the people served by the school.  Many of the children come from reservations where culture and history have been lost in the  need to struggle for survival in our economy. The center receives no  federal or tribal funding, so it is supported on donations and the sale of artwork.  You can see some of these items at

We were welcomed by a guide who told us where to start looking at the history of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota, following the displays which were in  chronological order around the large circular building.

A huge stuffed buffalo and I stood eye to eye, and I got an idea of what it would be like to be at its mercy.  We've seen them from inside a car, but up close and personal, I knew I would never get out of a car to see one. I'd read, recently, of a tourist who died doing that.

Vintage beadwork on personal items was in cases, with tools and items used long ago by people of these cultures.  Beautiful clothing on mannequins showed us how the styles have changed over the years for them.  Gorgeous stone carvings and pottery were for sale, along with art prints and watercolors.  Some large cases displayed their jewelry and some made by other vendors.  There were woodcarvings and statues.  It was very impressive.  There were books and videos that explain history, culture and language, specific chiefs, and events.  A large children's section was also available.

We learned a bit about the Lakota religion. I loved one quote from a Lakota Elder, about children.

" The child is a person who has just come from the Great Mysterious, and I who am an old man am about to return to the Great Mystery.  And so in reality, we are very close to each other."

Randy and I found a Chester's Chicken store and had a picnic lunch on the banks of the Missouri River at a lovely park in Chamberlain. (Do you notice how much fried chicken we eat?)

Once out of Chamberlain, we began the Drive Across South Dakota to the western side of the state.  We were on the road for several hours, stopping just once, in Murdo, to check out the Town of 1880, briefly, without actually going in and using an hour to "see" it.  We had been there before, actually, in 2004, for breakfast.

I cannot begin to explain how beautiful South Dakota is. The sky was perfectly blue all day today, without a cloud.  In some areas, the land seems to roll in small mounds. Add a few black cattle to the golden ground, and the effect is stunning.  Many round rolls of hay or straw dot the golden, cut fields, and that blue, cloudless sky above it all created a gorgeous scene for most of the afternoon.
(That is not a cloud up top,  it's window glare.)

We passed many fields of dried-up corn, however, and acre upon acre of sunflowers with their heads bent as if in prayer for rain. Cattle grazed on ranches, and it was a lazy and bright day for us as we crept west, totally enjoying the difference in the scenery of South Dakota from  Ohio. Both are beautiful in their own ways.

Sunflower Fields

We drove into Kadoka at what we thought was about 4:30 PM.  Knowing that we are perched at the threshold of places we want to see well and spend time visiting, we decided to get our motel booked.  We checked out a place we had stayed in 2004 and fondly remembered, only to find it closed and looking as if it had been a victim of the Great Depression.  We looked over two others before booking one at the crossroads of two state roads in Kadoka, South Dakota.  If we stand in the parking lot, we can see for miles and miles (as the song goes) in every direction.  Dinner tonight was a hot dog, but we'd had a fun picnic lunch, and there aren't a lot of choices out here for fine dining..................

The kicker came when Randy looked at his cell phone and realized that we must have passed into Rocky Mountain Time Zone, and are now two hours behind our home time zone!  We probably could have travelled for another hour and used that hour...................but who cares, really?

And now to share my two favorite photos of South Dakota today.



 copyright:  KP Gillenwater

South Dakota ! Sioux Falls, Mitchell, and The Corn Palace of 2012

Today we visited both Sioux City, Iowa and Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  We've miscalled them both today numerous times. We crossed into South Dakota before noon.  It was not a long drive north on Rt 29 to Sioux Falls. As a matter of fact, we didn't drive 200 miles all day.

There seems to be a lot of road construction in downtown Sioux Falls, but we managed to find a parking spot.  I had a city map in my hand, but probably had it upside down, so we walked several blocks away from where we wanted to go.  More about that later.

We did manage to visit the old courthouse, a huge building made of quartzite. It has a small pioneer museum inside, which we briefly looked over, then started out again.  We walked by a new Orpheum Theatre and also an old  Orpheum Theatre. 

There are several blocks downtown which are known as the "Sculpture Walk."  Each year, new statues are displayed along the sidewalks of these blocks, and they are changed the next year, and sold.

Where's Waldo?
An art festival was going on downtown, and we strolled, with claustrophobia, through it. We also paused to read a historical marker showing a location of a bank robbery pulled off by John Dillinger in 1934.

One permanent statue is in Fawick Park at 10th St. and 2nd Ave.  It is a reproduction of the statue of David by Michelangelo.  It is an exact replica, full size, and one of only two castings ever made.  It was a gift to the city by Thomas Fawick, a citizen of Sioux Falls.  It took us awhile to walk to the park, but it was worth the jaunt. I am still looking for a smaller version for my front porch. 

We walked another few blocks to Falls Park, which is where the "Falls" in Sioux Falls are supposed to be.  Due to the horrendous drought this summer, the "falls" were little more than a trickle here and there running over the large rocks.  There were many people having picnics in the park, however, and lots of photos being taken of the water, what there was of it.

There was not only the art festival going on in this city, but also a German Festival taking place in Falls Park.  One thing that looked interesting was a dog race of Dachshunds.  Lots of these wiener dogs were in a cage, leaping and getting excited for their big moment.  Unfortunately, it was several hours away, so we had to forego that thrill.  We did, however, manage to look over the brats and potato pancakes that were for sale as the rest of the vendors were setting up for tonight's opening.

Instead, we walked to a lovely Italian restaurant near Falls Park for lunch, at Luciano's. There we split a chicken wrap sandwich and salad and cooled off with a couple of icy cold beers. Wonderful place, and good service. The food was delicious.

The Corn Palace in 2012
Side Mural
Onto 90W, we drove for just a little over an hour to Mitchell, South Dakota. This is a city made famous by its Corn Palace.  I told you yesterday about one that used to exist in Sioux City, Iowa. That one drew over 140,000 people to see it in that first year,  and was a huge sensation before the city stopped making it due to a flood.  The Corn Palace in Mitchell has been a yearly creation since 1892.  Each year a new theme is chosen and townspeople work to decorate the front and a side of the building with corn. Half a million people come each year to see the Corn Palace!

 Inside, the athletic court  is surrounded by murals made of corn. They use twelve different shades of corn, and rye, sour dock, milo, and grasses are used for the trim. Each ear of corn is cut in half lengthwise and nailed into place.  This year the theme is "Saluting Youth Activities," and the outside murals show dancers, golfers, athletes, artists, and all the things in which young folks participate. A concession worker told me that due to the drought this year, they may recycle this year's design, as they have done in previous drought times. It costs $130,000 each year to decorate the building. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.

The First Corn Palace, 1892
Randy and I were in Mitchell some years ago, and the theme that year was celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Lewis and  Clark Expedition.  I hope you can see the peoples' clothing in the older photo.

Apparently Mitchell is the place to be on the weekend, with most of the hotels and motels filled up.  I confess that our "no plans, no reservations" mode of travel caused us to lose some time this evening while we looked for a place to stay. Two of the larger chain motels have inside water parks in their motels. I am not talking about places that are usually water parks. I mean Comfort Inn. The last place I want to be is in a motel filled with kids at a water park, but there were no rooms at the Inn.

The good news is that there are lots of motels here. We are in The Kelly Inn, which is pretty cute.  It's decorated with a woodsy theme, and there is a wooden bear hanging outside the building, on our window frame, as if he were peeking into our room. There is a full house here, also, with a tour bus and some family reunions going on. If we come back to Mitchell, we will plan ahead next time.

We got involved in a movie on HBO after we checked in, and didn't go for dinner until nearly 9 PM. Across the street is a Culver's Custard shop. We've been seeing these ever since Fort Wayne, Indiana, but had never been to one, so this was our easy opportunity. I had a bowl of chili and Randy had a "Butter Burger."   (The name alone...............)