It’s hard to miss her on the bluff between exits 263 and 265 on I-90. She’s a 50-foot statue named Dignity, bestowing her wisdom and beauty to all of those who pass through Chamberlain and Oacoma.
Given to South Dakota as a gift from Norm and Eunabel McKie, the piece was designed by artist Dale Lamphere as a beacon of hope, to honor the culture and history of the state. Since its installation outside of the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, Dignity has been the topic of much discussion from locals and visitors alike.
Not only has it been a source of admiration, but it has also had an overwhelming effect on the surrounding community. Local art enthusiast, “Dignity’s biggest cheerleader,” and the Quilt Shop owner Sonya Kroupa explained what the 12-ton statue means to her, as well as what it has meant to all who have experienced the latest road trip stop.
Tell me about the location of Dignity.
Sonya Kroupa: The location is perfect in more than one way with a beautiful overlook of the great Missouri River at the edge of the prairie. The fact that she can be seen from I-90 is perfect. You can experience the force of the wind, as well as the power of the beautiful sunrise or sunset. The experience will let you empty your mind, as well as fill it with compassion via the magnitude and beauty of the sculpture.
What does Dignity mean for the Native American community?
SK: Most of all she means “honor” of the culture of the people and the women who are very important. I cannot explain the feeling of standing beside another person next to her and feeling no boundaries between you and that other person. It does not matter where in the world they are from. It is something you must experience yourself.
The statue was created to glitter in the sun, and at night LED lights glow in the night sky.
What does she mean to you?
SK: Dignity is just the most exciting thing to me. It is a piece of artwork that can remind us to treat one another with respect and dignity. She automatically gets you to open your mind to a new enjoyment of artwork and the culture of our area. The river and the landscape behind her makes her even more awesome and meaningful. I was blessed with meeting and helping the artist, and will forever be grateful for [Lamphere’s] conversation and knowledge of the art piece. I’m so grateful to the McKie family for such a tremendous gift to our people and state.
Is there a time you recommend to drive by Dignity?
SK: I would say you do not want to miss seeing a sunset with her. They are beautiful! On one of my visits, I stood next to a woman who was crying, which just validates how much she impacts us.
For more information on Dignity, visit lampherestudio.com.
To honor Lakota and Dakota people, artist Dale Lamphere used three Native American models ages 14, 29, and 55 to perfect Dignity’s face.
Her dress is patterned after a two-hide Native dress of the 1850s.
The large quilt features 128 stainless steel blue diamond shapes that appear to “flutter in the wind.”