Dignity 1
Dignity: Sculpture near Chamberlain, South Dakota

Saturday, May 3, 2018

The last thing you would expect to find at a rest area is a stunning 12-ton, 50-foot-tall stainless steel sculpture of a Native American girl. And yet, there she was, a magnificent statute designed by sculptor Dale Lamphere to honor the Lakota and Dakota people who are indigenous to South Dakota. She stood upon a bluff overlooking the Missouri River near Chamberlain, South Dakota, regal and proud in her two-hide Native dress and moccasins, her star shawl open to the wind. The shawl is a work of art unto itself, 128 4-foot tall blue glass diamonds that twinkle in the sunlight and dance in the South Dakota wind. Her name is Dignity, the perfect moniker for one who represents the local native culture. At sunset Dignity appears more bronze than silver, and when darkness falls, LED lights installed inside the sculpture illuminate the mesmerizing work of art.

I could have gazed at her for hours, but we were anxious to get settled in our new temporary digs, so we reluctantly left Dignity behind and drove across the river to Arrowwood Cedar Shores Campground in Oacoma, on the western bank of the Missouri River.

Our campsite is right on the water, and you cannot beat the views. After getting set up, and snapping a few photos of the campground, we unloaded our bikes and took a ride on the Roland L. Dolly Memorial Bike Trail, which runs along the beautiful Missouri River.

Roland Dolly was the commissioner of South Dakota Governor George S. Mickelson’s Office of Economic Development. Dolly, along with Governor Mickelson and six other men, perished in a plane crash on April 19, 1993. The plane was returning to Sioux Falls from a trip to Ohio in an attempt to save a packing plant in Sioux Falls that was headquartered in Cincinnati, when the plane struck a silo near Dubuque, Iowa. It went down shortly before 4 p.m. Dolly was only 37 at the time of his death. It was said of Dolly that he was a “genuine man who wanted to help others.”

I do not remember hearing about the plane crash, probably because the tragedy was overshadowed by the news that the 51-day siege of a religious compound in Waco, Texas, had ended with an FBI assault that resulted in the deaths of 76 people.

What a shame that the deaths of Roland Dolly and seven other men were eclipsed by another disastrous event that could have been avoided.

There isn’t a lot to see or do in Oacoma, other than boating and fishing, which gave us the perfect excuse to kick back and take it easy for a couple of days. On Sunday evening, we decided to go see Dignity one more time. After making a quick stop for ice cream at Al’s Oasis, the “premier resting stop for travelers along Interstate 90,” (read: tourist trap), we drove back to the rest stop at MM 264, to wait for nightfall.

While we enjoyed our frozen treats, we chatted with a man who had spotted Dignity from the interstate, and stopped to “see what the heck that thing standing on the hill was.”

As the sun rode low in the sky, Dignity’s face and shoulders seemed to magically turn bronze. Minutes later, the fiery orange ball slipped beneath the horizon and disappeared from view. As the heavens grew dark, a series of spotlights lite up behind the sculpture. It wasn’t long before we began to see a strip of color across Dignity’s chest. Shortly afterward, the glass panels in her shawl began to glow.

It was a sight to behold.

Of all the beautiful places and things we’ve seen thus far on our journey, Dignity ranks near the top of my list.

Dignity's Shawl
Dignity’s shawl
The bluff overlooking the Missouri River where Dignity stands
Dignity near sunset
Dignity Back
Dignity’s shawl near sunset
Sunset on the Missouri River
Dignity at twilight



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