Native American Arts and Culture in the Black Hills
Pine Ridge Reservation Points of Interest
Red Cloud Indian School - Likely the most visited destination on the reservation, Red Cloud Indian School is a place where dreams come true. It's an example of where once tragic events occurred, life now thrives. Cultural suppression has turned into a celebration of the Lakȟóta People. Healing happens here through various forms, which is vital for the community to take the next steps.
We encourage you to visit. This is a place of student learning, preservation, expression of art, and a great opportunity to see an estimated 10,000 pieces of Lakota and other Native American Art. There are so many programs, including the Red Cloud Art Festival . Red Cloud Indian School can be found at 100 Mission Drive, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota 57770.
Wounded Knee Memorial
The Wounded Knee Massacre was one of the most tragic and devastating events in American history. On December 29th, 1890, a squad of U.S. Calvary soldiers opened fire on a group of Sioux men, women, and children camped near Wounded Knee Creek in Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
Approximately 150 Sioux were killed during this event, while many more were severely wounded or left homeless as a result. This massacre culminated from decades of mistreatment and broken treaties between the United States government and Native Americans. During this period, Indigenous people’s land rights were disregarded as settlers moved into their territories and established mines for gold or other resources without compensating the original inhabitants. As a result of these unfair practices, the Sioux were driven to near desperation and began to resist.
The events leading up to the Wounded Knee Massacre began in 1889 when Native American spiritual leader, Sitting Bull, was killed due to increasing tensions between his people and the U.S. government. Following this event, the Lakota chose Chief Big Foot as their new leader and went on a journey through South Dakota to seek refuge at Pine Ridge Reservation.
However, they were pursued by U.S Calvary troops, who eventually surrounded them near Wounded Knee Creek on December 29th, 1890. The following morning an altercation broke out between the two groups, which led to a chaotic exchange of gunfire that resulted in many casualties.
The tragedy at Wounded Knee Creek serves as a painful reminder of the terrible injustices wrought against Native American cultures throughout history, and stands as one of the most significant events in United States history. It is our duty to reflect upon this event and honor those who suffered due to it, so that we may never forget their suffering and be able to learn from our past mistakes. We all have an obligation to work towards creating a better future for all Indigenous people — one free from the violence, oppression, and injustice they have faced for centuries.
It's truly heartbreaking to think about how many innocent lives were lost because of the Wounded Knee Massacre. The atrocity committed by U.S Calvary troops remains a legacy of the devastating consequences of colonization and broken treaties.
However, we must remember that this event is not simply a historical footnote — it is still affecting Indigenous people today who are struggling to preserve their culture and rights. We must take action to ensure that these injustices never happen again by working towards creating systemic change that respects the inherent rights of Native Americans.
Our citizens must work together to build bridges between cultures and promote understanding rather than hatred and violence. Only through collaboration can we create true solidarity between all people, regardless of background. We owe it to those who suffered at Wounded Knee Creek and future generations to ensure history doesn't repeat itself.
Let us never forget the Wounded Knee Massacre and use this reminder to continue striving for justice, peace, and understanding between all peoples. We must honor those who have been affected by this tragedy by creating a better future for Indigenous people everywhere.
Native American Owned/Supportive Businesses
Bird Cage Bookstore - Although the Bird Cage Bookstore is now online only, it offers a wonderful array of Native American books. The Bird Cage Bookstore is owned and operated by Lily Mendoza. The store specializes in regional Native American books and promotes awareness of #redribbonskirtsociety This business identifies as woman owned, and one we love. Lily is a wealth of knowledge and we love connecting with her any way we can.
Dakota Drum - Owned and operated by Sonja Holy Eagle, Dakota Drum is located in the center of Rapid City. Here you can find authentic and traditional buffalo hide drums hand-painted by Sonja. Various other goods, such as ledger art, quillwork, beadwork, and jewelry, can be found here. Sonja provides a warm welcome and is a wealth of information on Lakota Art of all kinds. Dakota Drum is located at 603 Main Street in Rapid City. She can be reached at 605-348-2421. Visit her Etsy Site to see the art she has for sale online.
Evans Flammond Sr. Ledger Art
Ledger art is a unique form of Native American art that originated in the late 19th century. It is a form of narrative art that emerged following the forced relocation of Native Americans to reservations. The artists, who were mainly Plains Indians, used old ledger books to create artwork that depicted their traditional way of life before the arrival of European settlers.
he ledger books were obtained from traders and were used to record transactions and inventories. The artists used the pages to create drawings and paintings that depicted scenes from their daily life, including hunting, fishing, and ceremonial activities.
The symbology of ledger art is deeply rooted in Native American culture. The artists used a wide range of symbols and motifs to convey their message. For example, the buffalo was a symbol of strength and resilience, while the eagle was a symbol of freedom and spirituality. Other symbols included the sun, moon, stars, and various geometric shapes.
The use of ledger books as a medium for art was a powerful statement of resistance against the assimilation policies of the US government. It allowed Native American artists to reclaim their cultural identity and express their heritage in a way that was both creative and meaningful.
Today, ledger art is a vital part of Native American art history. It has influenced contemporary Native American artists and has become an essential way for younger generations to connect with their cultural heritage. Many museums and galleries across the United States showcase ledger art, which continues to inspire artists and art lovers alike.
Lil Gails - In business since 2013 and located in the Rushmore Mall, Lil Gails is 100% Lakota owned and operated. Lil Gails offers a wide variety of products that are Native American Inspired, and locally handcrafted Native American Treasures. This is a local destination, and one recommended by many Lakota friends.
Oglala Lakota College and Historical Center - Before visiting the Historical Center, call 605-455-6000 to make sure they are open for visitors. If so, you'll find an array of historical photos and artwork chronicling the history of the Oglala Lakota People. An audio guide assists with further understanding and explanation.
Prairie Edge - In the heart of downtown Rapid City, Prairie Edge contains a wide array of Native American Arts. Medium of all kinds can be found here. A bead library exists upstairs, and this is the type of store you could spend hours looking. A bookstore in the back offers great literary works and a helpful staff that can direct you to any interest you may have. It's definitely worth stopping. Be sure to check out the back, where supplies for regalia and star quilts can be found. Prairie Edge is at 606 Main Street in Downtown Rapid City.
Pine Ridge Chamber of Commerce - Located at 7900 Lakota Prairie Drive, Kyle, SD 57752, the Pine Ridge Chamber promotes businesses on or in support of the tribe. In the same grouping of buildings is "Art of the Lakota," a gallery of American Indian art and fine craft.
Singing Horse Trading Post - This is perhaps my favorite store for authentic Native American art and supplies. The owner, Rosie, has been on the Pine Ridge Reservation for over 29 years. Native American Artists come from all over to sell her their art, pick up supplies, and even barter when needed. An array of art can be found here, including bracelets, medallions, ledger art, hides, clothing, blankets, beadwork, and much more. I like the Singing Horse Trading Post because it is the closest to residents on Pine Ridge, making it easier for them to buy and sell. Rosie is a wonderful person and makes sure that all are welcome. In addition to the art she offers, you can rent lodges and ride horses. It's a bit of a drive, but here are directions or call 605-455-2143. Alternatively, you can take a tour with My XO Adventures that includes an artist workshop in beading, quillwork, or drum making. Simply CONTACT US and make a request!
Tusweca Gallery - Located at 631 Main Street in Rapid City, Tusweca art is owned by Joe Pulliam. It features a number of different art styles, with my favorite being Ledger Art. Joe has some real masterpieces hanging in his gallery, and its one worth stopping to take a look and support a local artist. You can also visit his online store called Double Dragonfly Designs.
Native American Events
Black Hills Powwow - This is one of the premier American Indian cultural events in the United States. In 2022, there were approximately 1200 dancers participated in the powwow. Typically held at The Monument Arena, the Powwow is held in early October over a three-day period. Each dancer wears regalia that have special meaning.
Dancing is not the only part of this special event, but also the drummers that compete. Huge traditional drums with their teams take turns providing the beat and song of each dance. I highly recommend that those visiting the area attend at least one day of the events. It's family-friendly and has a welcoming atmosphere.
Native American Performing Arts
Ryan LittleEagle - A singer-songwriter living in the Black Hills, Ryan Little Eagle blends rich storytelling of Country/Americana music, creating a style called "Native Americana." Ryan is a multi-award-winning international performer and musician, having won two Native American Music Awards (Debut Artist 2012, Best Instrumental 2014) and two Canadian Indigenous Music Awards (Best Flute CD 2013, Best Flute CD 2014).
Ryan has enjoyed performing for diverse crowds throughout the United States and internationally in the Caribbean and South America. Ryan also accompanies My XO Adventures, offering an authentic Native American Experience on any of our Tours. His music can be found on his website, through Apple Music and Spotify.