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The Gift

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The Gift logo - CAIRNS exhibition at SDAM

This year’s educational art exhibit from the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies (CAIRNS), "The Gift," is based on a traditional Lakotan narrative about when White Buffalo Woman, an emissary from the Pte Oyate (Buffalo Nation), gave a sacred pipe to the Itazipco Oyate, one of seven oyates of the Lakota division of the Oceti Sakowin Confederacy. In the Standing Rock Reservation in 1911, Lone Man shared a narrative, “The White Buffalo Calf Pipe (Ptehin’cala Canonpa),” about the gift, with Frances Densmore who published it in 1918. It is a wondrous account of that event. 

The Gift - SDAM exhibition with CAIRNS

The narrative is organized into seven passages, each of which is interpreted and illustrated by a Lakotan artist. These seven artists are the Narrative Artists for the exhibit. When Frances Densmore recorded the narrative, she also recorded Charging Thunder singing, “Song of the White Buffalo Maiden.” He, Charging Thunder, is the Narrative Musician, and his song can be heard in the exhibit and in the online version of the exhibit. There also is a Narrative Poet whose poem is in the exhibit and its online version. The creative works of these nine Lakotans constitute the Narrative section of the exhibit.

The second section of the exhibit explores the seven ceremonies ⎯ "gifts" ⎯ that Black Elk says were foretold by  White Buffalo Woman. For each gift, a Lakotan musician or musical group composed a song, a Lakotan poet wrote a poem and two Lakotan visual artists each created an artwork. These creative works constitute the Gifts section of the exhibit.

The gifts were and are:

  • Inikaga ⎯ Revitalizing the Ghost
  • Hanblecheya ⎯ Crying for a Vision
  • Wanaghi Yuhapi ⎯ Keeping a Spirit
  • Wiwanyang Wachipi ⎯ Sun Dancing
  • Hunka Lowanpi ⎯ Making Relatives
  • Ishnati Awichalowan ⎯ Preparing for Womanhood
  • Tapa Wankayeyapi ⎯ Throwing the Ball


The Creatives

Thirty-nine creatives created songs, artworks and poems for this exhibit. Of these, thirty-six are Lakotans who are citizens of five of the seven Lakota nations.

Learn about each musician, artist and poet.

In the News

Exhibition News Release

Virtual Artist Chats

Keith BraveHeart, Roger Broer, Dwayne Wilcox and Jhon Goes In Center

Angela Babby, Andrea Lekberg and Renelle White Buffalo

Athena LaTocha, Iris Sully and Alfreda Beartrack Algeo


Exhibit curriculum support for "The Gift:" South Dakota Art Museum, South Dakota Community Foundation

Additional support for "The Gift:Makoché Studios, National Endowment for the Arts, NoVo Foundation, South Dakota Arts Council

For a complete list of supporters for this exhibition.