The Dignity of Earth & Sky, also known simply as Dignity, is a stunning sculpture that stands tall on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River near Chamberlain, South Dakota. Created by South Dakota artist laureate Dale Lamphere, this awe-inspiring work of art pays tribute to the rich culture and heritage of the Lakota and Dakota peoples, the Indigenous tribes native to South Dakota.
The 50-foot high (15.24m) stainless steel statue depicts an Indigenous woman in a traditional Plains-style dress gracefully receiving a star quilt. Measuring 16 feet (4.88m) deep and 32 feet (9.75m) wide, the sculpture is an impressive sight, capturing the essence of strength and resilience inherent in the Native American culture.
An integral part of the sculpture, the star quilt held by the woman features over 100 blue diamond shapes that move gently in the wind, reminiscent of an Aspen leaf. The star quilt is a symbol of honor and respect in Native American culture, often used to commemorate significant life events or achievements.
Three Native American women from Rapid City, South Dakota, served as the models for the sculpture, ensuring its authenticity and cultural accuracy. Artist Dale Lamphere began the creative process by sketching the form and then sculpting a one-eighth-scale model. The sculpture was crafted in an isolated area near the Cheyenne River, east of Rapid City, SD, before being moved to its current installation site.
The Dignity statue is more than just a work of art; it is a powerful statement that the Native cultures of South Dakota are alive and standing with dignity. Through its striking presence, the sculpture serves as a reminder of the importance of honoring and preserving Indigenous heritage.
Dale Lamphere has plans to further enhance the sculpture by adding the name of every federally recognized tribe on a stainless steel band around the base of the statue. In his words, “I wanted something that would really honor the indigenous people of the Great Plains, and I kept that in mind all the time. I made the work reflect the name that it has of ‘Dignity,’ and I think that’s part of what makes it work so well.”
The Dignity of Earth & Sky sculpture is a remarkable tribute to the Lakota and Dakota peoples, embodying the spirit of resilience and strength that defines their culture. As a symbol of unity and recognition, the sculpture is a testament to the importance of acknowledging and celebrating the rich history and heritage of South Dakota’s Indigenous tribes.