Dignity stands tall in South Dakota, honoring native tribes

August 14, 2017, 2:16 p.m.
The Dignity statue stands 50 feet tall and looks over the Missouri River.
Photo: Ken Wolter/Shutterstock

Designed by Dale Lamphere and erected in September 2016, the 50-foot stainless steel Dignity statue depicts a Native American woman in Plains-style clothing holding a star quilt behind along her back. The statue looks over the Missouri River in Chamberlain, South Dakota, and represents the courage and wisdom of the Lakota and Dakota people who hail from the area.

"A star quilt has traditionally been used to honor people," Lamphere explained to Keloland in 2014. "And this is an honoring of our Native community here in South Dakota. It is meant very much to be that."

Lamphere also plans to inscribe the names of every federally recognized tribe around the base of the statue.

Lest you think the the statue is just a stunning steel statue, there's some colorful ingenuity to as well. The quilt contains 128, 4-foot-tall glass diamonds. Lamphere chose the paints carefully, with half of the diamonds being a dark blue hue while the other half are a lighter blue.

The colors shift in intensity depending on the time of day. "In the shadows or at night, that dark blue looks really dark blue. And when the sun hits it, it will lighten up," Brook Loobey, who painted the glass diamonds told the Rapid City Journal in 2016. The glass diamonds also spin when the wind passes through them so as to reduce the statue's wind resistance.

Lamphere consulted with Native Americans when designing Dignity, and that work paid off in the statue's reception.

"It's just amazing. It's beautiful. It's a great honor for our people. I'm happy that someone would think to do this in honor of us," Doree Jensen, a native of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, told the Rapid City Journal when the statue was unveiled.

And South Dakota as a whole seems to agree. In July, drivers in South Dakota could begin ordering license plates bearing the statue.