2018-07-12 / Voices

Lakota Educational Art Exhibitions


The Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies (CAIRNS) is thrilled to announce that we have received a Statewide Services grant from the South Dakota Arts Council to help support our new Lakota Educational Art Exhibitions Project.

The Lakota Educational Art Exhibitions Project is an extension of a series of annual art exhibitions based on traditional Lakota narratives that CAIRNS has organized since 2015. Conceptually, the first one, Lakota Emergence, is about why Lakota ancestors left their homes in the underworld and traveled through a cave to this world. It describes Lakotas emerging onto this world at the place now known as Wind Cave. The second exhibit, Great Race, focuses on an epic race of all the creatures of this world that resulted in the formation of the Black Hills. The third exhibition, Tapun Sa Win, picks up the vertical trajectory in Lakota Emergence and extends it from this earth to the stars, which are made relatives through the marriage of Red Cheek Woman (Tapun Sa Win) and a star man who later becomes the North Star. Their son, Fallen Star, embodies the kinship between Lakotas and the stars.

These are wonderful narratives, but what brings them to life today are the creative interpretations of them by contemporary Lakota artists. These include poets and musicians in addition to painters and sculptors.

The title of our current exhibition is “Takuwe,” which in English means “why.” It is about the Wounded Knee massacre. Thirty Lakota visual artists created 28 new artworks for the exhibit. As with the Great Race and Tapun Sa Win exhibitions, Lakota poets and musicians created poems and songs for the exhibition.

Recognizing that many more Lakotas wish to participate in this new exhibition, we have invited Lakotas of all walks of life to create 5-inch square artworks to be included in the exhibition. So far, pieces from K-12 and college students, prison inmates, and other persons in and beyond South Dakota have been received or are currently on their way. We hope that eventually the number of contributors to the Takuwe exhibit will surpass 300 Lakotas, which is the number of persons who were slain at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890.

This summer, CAIRNS will develop a “communitybased” version of the Takuwe exhibition. It will consist of high-quality reproductions of the core visual artworks on PVC display boards, and copies of all exhibition panels and labels. Because it consists of reproductions which can be inexpensively replaced, and does not require environmental controls, the community-based version can travel to venues that typically cannot host art exhibitions.

When rural or reservation-based schools host these traveling exhibitions, students and community members can see the exhibitions without having to travel to or coordinate their schedules with museums that might be hundreds of miles away. Not only does this help increase students’ exposure to Lakota art and culture, it also creates a collaborative learning relationship between the exhibitions and the schools. In past experiences with our exhibitions, this special relationship has produced classroom art and language projects directly inspired by an exhibition.

In addition to the museum exhibitions and their community-based versions, another aspect of our proposed project is directly tied to engaging K-12 students with the exhibitions. In partnership with South Dakota Art Museum (SDAM), selected American Indian teachers from across our state are developing curriculum for K-12 classrooms based on Takuwe and upcoming exhibitions.

We believe that the Lakota Educational Art Exhibitions is an exciting opportunity to increase public awareness of the diversity of Lakotas and of Lakota arts, to extend this awareness to underserved rural and reservation communities, and to advance the role art plays in educating South Dakota students. If you or your organization would like to participate, please contact CAIRNS.

*The Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies is an Indian-controlled nonprofit research and education center founded in 2004 and located in the Lacreek District of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

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