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Wounded Knee massacre victims commemorated

"Takuwe" exhibit gallery

Dec. 29 marks the 128th anniversary of the Wounded Knee Massacre. To commemorate the estimated 300 Lakota men, women and children killed that day in 1890, South Dakota Art Museum and the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies (CAIRNS) invite the public to visit the Campus Green behind the South Dakota Art Museum any time from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 29.

Materials will be available for visitors to make 300 “memory sticks” consisting of a black stick and a red ribbon. As the memory sticks are assembled, visitors may place them in the ground in a pattern that outlines the dimensions of the mass grave within which the bodies of 146 Lakota were interred Jan. 3-4, 1891. The memory sticks will be left in place on the Campus Green through Jan. 4, 2019.

CAIRNS Director Craig Howe, Ph.D., and developers of the Takuwe K-12 educational curriculum team will be on hand from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 29 to share this experience with visitors. Warm beverages will be served. Inside the museum, Takuwe (in English, “Why”), the educational art exhibit curated by Howe about the Wounded Knee Massacre, will be open for in-depth exploration.

Takuwe: educational exhibit about the Wounded Knee Massacre

The focus of Takuwe is the 1890 massacre of Lakotas at Wounded Knee, but it does not begin or end with the killings. Its intent is to begin with positives and to close with a call to action. The exhibition is divided into seven chronological sections, which are accompanied by the artworks, poetry and songs of forty-six contemporary Lakota artists. In addition to these core artists, Lakotas of all walks of life are invited to create a 5-inch square artwork for the exhibition. Students, inmates, laypersons and professional artists are contributing to this initiative and their artworks are also on display.

Its narrative structure is based on the words of Lakotas who were there in 1890 and 1891. Their recollections and reflections guide visitors through the exhibition in seven chronological periods, beginning with BELIEF, which expresses the spiritual context of the Ghost Dance. ASSASSINATION focuses on the early morning killing of Sitting Bull Dec. 15, 1890. TREK covers the journey of Spotted Elk and his people from along the Cheyenne River toward Red Cloud’s community in Pine Ridge Reservation.

The fourth section, MASSACRE, portrays the killing of innocent Lakota children, women and men Dec. 29, 1890, at Wounded Knee. INTERVAL covers the period of time from immediately after the massacre through Jan. 2, 1891. INTERMENT concentrates on the Jan. 3-4, 1891 burial in a mass unmarked grave of the Lakotas whose bodies remained on the site.

The final section, PROPOSAL, offers an opportunity to reflect on the complex legacy of the massacre and looks forward to the ways in which Lakota citizens and tribes will continue to commemorate the victims of Wounded Knee. The voices of the Lakota poets and musicians can quite literally be heard in the gallery. By putting on a pair of headphones, visitors can listen to the poets recite their works and the musicians sing, or play, their songs.

Takuwe opened at South Dakota Art Museum Nov. 2, 2018 and closes Feb. 6, 2019. This exhibit is made possible in part by the generous sponsorship of First Bank & Trust as part of Fishback Financial Corporation and the South Dakota Community Foundation.

About South Dakota Art Museum

South Dakota Art Museum is located at 1036 Medary Avenue in Brookings and is open daily except for the following holiday and winter closures: Dec. 22-25 and Dec. 30-Jan. 1 and Sundays in January through March. Admission to the museum is free. Parking is also free in the museum’s reserved lot just west of the museum on Harvey Dunn Street. For more information, call (605) 688-5423, email or visit South Dakota Art Museum.

About the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies (CAIRNS)

CAIRNS is an Indian-controlled nonprofit research and education center that is committed to advancing knowledge and understanding of American Indian communities and issues important to them by developing quality educational resources and innovative projects that acknowledge and incorporate tribal perspectives, and by serving as a meeting ground for peoples and ideas that support these perspectives.

For more information visit or email