Pierre, South Dakota   Leave a comment

Day 15-16 we are headed to Pierre, South Dakota (pronounced pier), with a stop at the Akta Lakota Museum and St. Joseph Indian School along the way which is located in Chamberlain. It was very informative about the Lakota (Sioux) Indians. We learned that their livelihood depended on the buffalo. They only killed what they needed and used every part of the buffalo. They used the stomach (and it didn’t leak) as a pot to boil their water to cook food and they used the bladder as their “water bag.” I am so glad I wasn’t a Lakota Indian. It took only 80 years for the white man to kill off the buffalo which the Indians depended so heavily on. I have no pictures of the museum as we were not allowed. There were many artifacts and reproductions throughout the museum and was well worth seeing. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take photos.

We were allowed to take pictures in the Lady of Sioux across the street. Oscar Howe’s Indian Christ was replicated into a tapestry, which is the focal point behind the altar.

Ron Zeilinger’s magnificent stained glass windows are the crown jewel of the chapel.

We found that the school is the same concept as Boys Town, except that it helps the Indian children. It is for children who are disadvantaged and behind several years in school. It is run by private funds and the children do not have to pay tuition. There are large duplex housing where a couple lives and houses 12 children. There are approximately 196 children enrolled this year. The grade school is on campus and the children in h.s. go to the local h.s.

Today was one of the prettiest drives ever. The weather was beautiful and the scenery was picturesque.

As we drove, up on the hill were these really cool sculptures. We found out they were Short Bull Family Indian sculptures “Visions of the Past” life-size plasma cut figures. The display includes 10 silhouettes of riders scouting, medicine man praying, and the buffalo.

Dinner was a wonderful steak dinner at the Cattleman’s Steak House

with a breathtaking view of the Missouri River and South Dakota Hills. What an amazing view!

Day 16 – The bus picked us up early and headed back down river for an unscheduled scenic drive. We were supposed to view the Medicine Knoll Overlook and a stop at “visions of the past” for photos but our bus driver was not familiar with the area so we never found the overlook and we think the photo op was the silhouettes of the horses, Indians and cowboys on the hill, which I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to get a picture. We were in a hurry to head back to town for our tour of the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center. There was so much to see that the hour we allotted for the tour was not enough. When we come back, we will be sure to allow more time.

The most interesting thing to me was the Sioux horse effigy dance stick, which is one of only two known sculptures of its kind in the world. This piece was carved by a Sioux warrior probably around 1875 to honor his faithful steed that had died in battle.

Another favorite was learning that when “Sitting Bull” was shot and killed his horse went into his “show routine.” (Sitting Bull was in the Wild Bill Wild West Show). I guess that’s really not funny, but it sure must have been a site to see.

Next stop was the State Capitol Building.

When the S.D. Governor is elected, they hold the inaugural ball inside the Capitol Building, where the Governor and his wife make their entrance down the Grand Stairs.

The building itself was constructed between 1905 and 1910. The stone, marble and woodwork were very detailed and beautiful. It was designed and built for just under $1 million. 66 Italian artists were hired to lay the terrazzo tile flooring. Each artist was given a special blue stone as a “signature stone” for the artist to place somewhere in the Capitol at the artist’s discretion. Only 55 of the 66 blue stones have been found.

The Rotunda floor is a combination of American-laid prism glass and Italian terrazzo tile. American-laid prism glass was used in order to allow light to flow through to the first level of the Capitol and also allow light from the first level to penetrate into the Rotunda.

Originally the building did not have running water, so the marble water fountains were filled with water and a brass cup was provided each day for the employees and visitors. Today they have added solid brass spigots and handles and they are now plumbed for water.

Across the way was a beautiful park with a memorial to veterans of World War I, II, Korean and Viet Nam and where the Visitors’ Center is located. We asked our guest veterans to pose with the statues.

We thank each and every one of them for their sacrifices.

After lunch, our guide boarded our bus and off to the Verendrye Monument. The Monument marks a spot where the French buried an engraved lead plate in mid 1741.

What a view of the Missouri River. I’ll bet this is where the Indians sat and watched as Lewis & Clark came around the bend of the River.

Not far was Lilly Park, which is the confluence of the “Bad River” and Missouri River.

It was named the Bad River by the Indians because in the 1800s a storm from hundreds of miles away caused a flash flood which came roaring through, killing hundreds of Indians. Lilly Park is where the historical meeting of Lewis & Clark and the Sioux Nation took place. President Jefferson had commissioned Lewis & Clark to make peaceful contact with the native nations. Unfortunately no one on the expedition could communicate with the Teton Sioux, which led to an armed confrontation. LUCKY FOR US Chief Black Buffalo diffused the situation and the expedition continued peacefully to the Pacific Ocean. Pierre is probably most noted for the filming of the movie “Dancing With Wolves.”

Our last tour of the day was the Oahe Dam and Powerhouse. Unfortunately, due to security, we were not allowed to take pictures.

Construction began in 1948 and water was diverted through the outlet works in 1958. In 1959, the earth and shale dam reached its full height of 245 feet. The Oahe Dam is the world’s fourteenth largest dam by volume, creating a lake that stretches 231 miles upstream. The lake covers 375,000 acres of land, and we were told the people who lost their land to the Dam were not happy campers…. Power generation began in 1962. The power plant discharges approximately 436,000 gallons of water per second when operating at peak load capacity! Water enters the power plant through 7 intake structures. Each structure has 8 openings 11 feet high. Water entering through the plant is controlled (like an open-ended tin can) and moves through the tunnel at approximately 11 miles per hour.


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