Native Sun News: Tribes step up with donations for cultural center

The following story was written and reported by Ernestine Chasing Hawk, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.

Artist's rendering of the He Sapa Black Hills Center for Northern Plains Tribal Arts and Performance. Image from Wyss Associates

Tribes donate to Cultural Center
He Sapa Center becoming a reality
By Ernestine Chasing Hawk
Native Sun News Staff Writer

RAPID CITY –– Organizers of a Native American events center that will benefit Indians living in and around Sacred He Sapa is closer to becoming a reality.

Robert Cook representing the Alliance for Tribal Tourism Advocates attended a January 5 Rapid City Common Council meeting and told them that ATTA has secured much of the funding needed to complete the project.

“We just received confirmation from Mark Van Norman who works with ATTA that they have secured $250,000 in funding, $150,000 from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and we just received word that the Oglala Sioux Tribal council approved $100,000,” Cook told the council.

Cook said Van Norman is also in communication with Harold Frazier, Chairmen of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, whose tribe is looking to contribute another $100,000.

Rapid City levies a half penny tax to support its Vision Fund, formerly the 2012 fund, which is the city's program for long-range planning and economic development.

In 2005, Daphne Richards-Cook Executive Director of ATTA began the daunting task of creating a place where visitors coming to South Dakota could find a real life Native American experience.

Richards set out to secure 2012 funds for the project. In November of 2005, ATTA was approved for $812,000.

The next step was to secure a location and a final site was chosen north of the Journey Museum.

Wyss Associates was hired as the architectural firm to design the plans for the ATTA project.

Chris Wehrle of Wyss Associates, Inc. said they have been involved in every phase of the Powwow Gardens and Indian Art Market in Rapid City.

“From the site selection study to preliminary concept development, from project advocacy to design development, Wyss Associates, Inc. has been working with the Alliance of Tribal Tourism Advocates and the City of Rapid City to develop a ground breaking project that connects the reservation to the city. Facilities planned for construction are the central powwow amphitheater, an Art Market, a Living History Village and various administrative elements,” Wehrle said.

Since 2005, ATTA changed the name from Powwow Garden and Art Market to He Sapa Black Hills Center for Northern Plains Tribal Arts and Performance.

However, in order to complete the $1.8 million project, ATTA had to raise matching funds and has been working to do so since 2005. But in order to receive the Vision Fund money a deadline of Dec. 31, 2014 was set by the Rapid City Common Council and time was running out.

So far individual supporters and organizations pledged donations ranging from $10 to $150,000. The project also received a $100,000 commitment from State Senator Stan Adelstein. Another $400,000 in funding is still needed to complete the project.

Site plans and artist’s renderings have been developed and revised to address issues of public safety, as well as mitigating any sound and noise pollution.

ATTA has spent $112,000 of the $812,000 toward the site plans, artist renderings and construction blue prints. As of date the project is shovel ready for the current site just off North Street near the Journey Museum Wehrle said.

This project is now ready for "bid" and only needs to seek additional funds to match the commitment of Vision 2012 funds provided by the City of Rapid City. The cost estimates are current and Wyss Associates has provided the City of Rapid City with a project that fully complies with City standards and code requirements for public use and access. The designs include consideration for lighting, safety, traffic, signage, maximum capacity, and noise abatement.

“We are confident with the necessary financial support that this project will make a significant contribution to the cultural understanding and appreciation of Northern Plains tribal arts and related tourism development for the City, the State and Great Plains Region,” Wehrle said.

ATTA is working cooperatively with United Tribes Technical College and Sinte Gleska University to develop the center as a venue for student performers, student educational experience, and job opportunities. In addition, the Center will serve to preserve Lakota language and culture.

Initial planning indicates that the center could draw 200,000 or more visitors annually, mostly during the period from May 15 to September 15. Thus, the project is ideal for tribal college student performers and employees.

From her hospital room where she spent the holidays, Daphne Richards-Cook continued to work diligently on the project which she has been doing on a volunteer basis. Although she could not make the January 5 Rapid City Common Council meeting to ask for an extension, her husband Robert Cook was there to represent ATTA. Former staffer Randy Ross has also been ill and has been living in Oklahoma.

“This is a much needed project for this community and it is going to be self-sustaining. I think there is new excitement about this project,” Cook said.

The common council unanimously approved the 90 day extension to give ATTA time to raise the additional $400,000 needed to complete the project that will bring to Rapid City a much appreciated venue for both Natives and tourists visiting our Sacred He Sapa.

(Ernestine Chasing Hawk can be reached at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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