Shannon County - Civic Life & History
Museums, Libraries & Archives
The Cultural Heritage Center, located on the Piya Wiconi campus of Oglala Lakota College, contains artwork and photographs of Oglala Lakota life throughout the 19th century, including images from the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre. A recorded audio presentation that accompanies the exhibit provides an opportunity to “hear, see and feel the history of the Oglala Lakota People."
Opened in 1982, the Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School offers an outstanding collection of Lakota tribal arts and Native American fine arts. The fine arts collection in particular includes over two thousand paintings, drawings, and sculptures that represent Native American tribal traditions. Such a vast collection allows the Heritage center to further reach its mission of promoting “the arts of Native Americans to bring a greater appreciation of their culture."
The Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce, located six miles west of Kyle, South Dakota, has a visitor center that houses artwork and artifacts depicting the Oglala Lakota way of life. Tours are available by appointment.
There are also a number of museums and visitor centers located in communities near Shannon County that interpret the history of the region. The Museum of the Fur Trade is located east of Chadron, Nebraska. “The museum, standing on the site of James Bordeaux’s trading post established for the American Fur Company in 1837,” has an outstanding collection of trade goods on exhibit.
Agate Fossils Beds National Monument near Harrison, Nebraska, contains the James H. Cook Collection of artifacts that Red Cloud and other Oglalas and Northern Cheyennes gave as gifts to the Cook family.
In addition, the White River Visitors Center in the South Unit of Badlands National Park offers new exhibits that focus on Lakota history and culture. The Vistors Center is open May to August and is located approximately 20 miles south of Scenic, South Dakota.
As the only library on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Woksape Tipi, “the main library for Oglala Lakota College, is responsible for maintaining 11 branch libraries located in various districts of the Pine Ridge Reservation as well as branch libraries located in Eagle Butte and Rapid City. Woksape Tipi is also home for the Oglala Lakota College archives, a collection of documents that include “the permanent records of Oglala Lakota College, the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium." Examples of documents housed by the OLC archives include oral and written histories, pamphlets and personal papers.
Historical Photos and Documents Online
A comprehensive source for federal documents is Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties that was compiled by Charles Kappler and is available online. Use its Index to access all treaties and most laws related to “Sioux” peoples. The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is within the original Sioux territory as identified by the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty as well as the Great Sioux Reservation that was established by the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty. The Great Sioux Reservation was reduced by the 1877 Act that took the Black Hills plus approximately 7,000,000 acres of land. The reduced Great Sioux Reservation was then dissolved by the 1889 Act and five Lakota reservations, one being Pine Ridge, were established on small portions of its land. The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation was further reduced by “the sale and disposition of surplus and unallotted lands in Bennett County” and by loss of lands to the Badlands National Monument and the Badlands Air Force gunnery range. United States Supreme Court decisions, such as the one that determined that “the Sioux nation of Indians” should have been but were not compensated for the taking of the Black Hills by the 1877 Act, are available at Justia.com.
The James R. Walker collection of manuscript documents is the scholarly source for most academic studies of Oglala and Lakota spirituality. Walker was a physician at Pine Ridge in the early 1900s, and Oglala medicine men shared their traditional philosophies and beliefs with him.
More than 100 historic photographs depicting life and events on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation at the turn of the twentieth century are available from the Prints and Photographs Department of the Library of Congress. The collection includes photographs by John C. H. Grabill and W.R. Cross.
The Denver Public Library has over 220 historic photographs of peoples and places related to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation available online, many of them taken a few years before and after the 1890 massacred at Wounded Knee. A far more extensive collection of nearly 1,600 historic photographs is available online from Marquette University Special Collections and University Archives using the search term “Pine Ridge.” Most of the photos are related to Holy Rosary Mission/Red Cloud Indian School.
Media and Information
The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is served by print, radio and television media. The Lakota Country Times,founded in 2004 and published weekly in Martin, South Dakota, is the official newspaper of both the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Indian Reservations. KILI Radio, 90.1 FM, broadcasts from Porcupine Butte, located between the Reservation communities of Porcupine and Wounded Knee. KOLC-TV, founded in 2004 by Oglala Lakota College, offers local cable television programming that focuses on “academic, cultural, and historical events.”
The Oglala Sioux Tribe disseminates Reservation information on the media page of its website. The Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce, “whose purpose is to create, enhance, and sustain Indian owned businesses,” provides general business-related information about the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Prior to the establishment of the Great Sioux Reservation by the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, the vast majority of Lakotas believed, as had their ancestors, that they had emerged onto this earth through a cave that is now known as Wind Cave, that they were the youngest brother of creation, and that though they were related to all of creation, their closest non-human relatives were the buffalo. They believed that their buffalo relatives had sent a woman named White Buffalo Cow Woman to give them a pipe. When she gave the pipe to the Lakotas, she said that there were seven associated ceremonies. According to tradition, those ceremonies and that pipe, which is in the hands of its 19th keeper, are what differentiate Lakotas from all other peoples.
The Black Hills are sacred lands to Lakotas. They are where Lakotas emerged from the underworld and where Lakotas returned regularly to conduct ceremonies. The Black Hills were taken by the federal government in 1877 but Lakotas were not compensated for that taking until a 1980 Supreme Court decision mandated an award. As of 2012, no Lakota tribe has accepted the monetary settlement.
Six years after their sacred lands were taken from them, Lakotas were prohibited by the Code of Indian Offenses from practicing their most important communal ceremony, the Sun Dance, “and all other so-called feasts assimilating thereto.” Moreover, the guardians of Lakotas spirituality, medicine men, were prohibited from conducting ceremonies and all their other “usual practices” that, in the eyes of the federal government, prevented “Indians from abandoning their heathenish rites and customs." The penalties for these “offenses” included the withholding of food and imprisonment.
The Episcopal and Catholic churches established separate missions and schools in 1877 and other Christian churches soon followed. Summer convocations of each denomination were hosted by communities from across the Pine Ridge Reservation and all other Lakota reservations. These weeklong camps were reminiscent of the traditional Sun Dances in that people congregated to pray and socialize. These convocations continue to be conducted every summer.
The Native American Church was introduced in the Pine Ridge and other Lakota reservations in the 1920s. In the 1970s, there was a resurgence in traditional Lakota spiritual practices, and in 1978 Congress passed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA). That Act stated that “it shall be the policy of the United States to protect and preserve for American Indians their inherent right of freedom to believe, express, and exercise the traditional religions of the American Indian, Eskimo, Aleut, and Native Hawaiians, including but not limited to access to sites, use and possession of sacred objects, and the freedom to worship through ceremonials and traditional rites."
In addition to traditional Lakota spirituality, the Native American Church and many Christian churches, including Baptist, Body of Christ, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Mormon, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic, have believers in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The Association of Religion Data Archives provides county-by-county statistics on membership in churches, synagogues and other religious organizations across the country. For a chart and data showing religious affiliation in Shannon County, click here.