The first of local youth to get an up-close look at the bust of Vine Deloria Jr., in the First Nations Sculpture Garden at Halley Park in Rapid City, South Dakota. Photo by James Giago Davies

Native Sun News Today: First Nations Sculpture Garden dedicated in South Dakota

Sculpture Garden dedicated at Halley Park

Four great men honored with busts of bronze
By James Giago Davies
Native Sun News Today Correspondent

RAPID CITY—Halley Park sits at an important connecting point in Rapid City, right at the Eastern end of a gap that divides the city into East/West halves, and on land that was taken from the Sioux San Indian Hospital, where a Sioux Museum once existed. Outside that building there is a now a First Nations Sculpture Garden, with four busts unveiled November 16, of prominent past tribal dignitaries.

The garden was realized through the efforts of many people, but chief among those responsible for turning a dream into a reality is Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, a Santee Dakota from Crow Creek, a professor Emerita of Native American studies and English at Eastern Washington University, and the author of 14 books, including co-authoring “The Politics of Hallowed Ground,” with Mario Gonzalez.

The four busts -- Charles Eastman, Nicholas Black Elk, Oscar Howe and Vine Deloria, Jr. -- are the work of sculptress Marilyn Wounded Head, Oglala Sioux Tribe, a retired Professor of Art. Tom Bollinger of Tempe, Arizona prepared the bronze casts. Mike Stanley of Stanley Designs did the landscaping, which was realized by Scull Construction of Rapid City. The installation and inscription was provided by Moda Stone, Inc.

From the beginning, Cook-Lynn has had to struggle to generate interest and funding from the local community. Perhaps, it is because these four busts are viewed by Wasicu as an indictment against their culture, and a past relationship based upon broken treaties and genocidal atrocities, rather than an honoring of four great men, who contributed mightily to the betterment of their culture.

“We particularly want to thank Moda Stone,” Cook-Lynn said to a packed room inside the old Sioux Museum building. “These people have worked through the night (to get the sculpture garden ready).”

Dr. Edward Valandra took the podium next. He is a Senior Research Fellow with the Community for the Advancement of Native Studies at the University of Manitoba. A Sicangu Lakota from St. Francis, Valandra was once Vine Deloria’s research assistant.

Valandra said, “It is the flat stereotype of who we are that the First Nation Sculpture Garden indicts and expels.”

He talked about how the existence of First Nation intellectuals, like the four honored in the sculpture garden, “show that (an intellectual) image conflicts with how White people are taught to think of our people.”

Gay Kingman, Executive Director of the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association talked about the contributions of Cook-Lynn: “Through all the adversity and controversy she never gave up. And who could refuse Elizabeth? She’s got such an eloquence and brilliance about her, and a strength.”


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Sculpture Garden dedicated at Halley Park
James Giago Davies is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. He can be reached at

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