High above the Missouri River in South Dakota sits a magnificent sculpture that’s a beautiful tribute to the Native Nations of the Great Plains region. The 50-foot-tall artwork is called Dignity of Earth and Sky—often shortened to just Dignity—and is a statue of an Indigenous woman wearing a Plains-style dress and receiving a star quilt. In highlighting this figure, the memorial recognizes the often-overlooked group of women of the Lakota and Dakota Nations.
Artist Dale Claude Lamphere created the beloved monument. To perfect the woman’s portrait, he referred to three Native American models—ages 14, 29, and 55—while studying the rich traditions of the Lakota and Dakota culture. “My intent,” Lamphere explains, “is for the sculpture to stand as an enduring symbol of our shared belief that all here are sacred and in a sacred place.”
The woman wears a dress pattern inspired by a two-hide design of the 1850s and holds a star quilt, which has proven to be the most striking part of the entire sculpture. The outstretched quilt—a symbol of respect and honor in Native American culture—features 128 stainless steel blue diamond shapes that flutter when the wind blows. It also appears differently throughout the day. When the sun is up, the pieces dazzle in the daylight. At night, they are illuminated by LED lights and have a dramatic yet tranquil appearance.
If you’d like to visit Dignity, it is located off I-90 in Chamberlain, South Dakota. While you’re in the area, don’t miss another opportunity to learn about Indigenous people. The Atka Lakota Museum and Cultural Center is just a short drive away.