Experiencing America (1): Standing Tall with the Dignity Sculpture

Written by: Api Sulistyo

This story occurred in the second weekend of August 2017. My wife, Tami, and I took a trip to a small town, Lower Brule in the state of South Dakota. It is about 510 kilometers (320 miles) from our house in Minneapolis, Minnesota and it took us more than six hours to get there by car. Well, what was going on that we had to drive that far for?

Through Facebook I got acquainted with someone living in Lower Brule. Yes, you got it right, through Facebook. Seeing his name, Vincent Suparman SCJ, I was convinced that he is from Indonesia. After further search it turned out to be true. He is from Indonesia. He even graduated from the same college as I did, Sanata Dharma University, in Yogyakarta on the island of Java. I was very curious about what he is doing in that remote area of South Dakota? I found out later that Vincent is a priest who serves and dedicates his life to the native people of the Lakota tribe who live in the Lower Brule reservation.

A few times I invited Vincent to stop by our house in Minnesota. I was not sure if he would have the opportunities to do so due to many other assignments he had to complete. We finally met in person a few months ago. Vincent stopped by and stayed for one night in our house. He was on the way driving back home by himself from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. With the visit at our house, he split the drive into two days so that it was not as tiring.

I was so lucky and thankful to have someone from Indonesia visiting us. We quickly felt like we are from the same family and were conversing comfortably in the Indonesian language. For Vincent, our special guest, I made beef satay that made it feel a bit like as if we were in Indonesia. And when he invited me to visit him I immediately agreed to visit. I have been interested to know more about the life and culture of native Americans and this opportunity came true in August. There was a traditional annual gathering for native Americans in Lower Brule called a pow wow and we wanted to watch it. In addition, we also wanted to celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary.

Using Google-maps, we found the shortest route to go to Lower Brule. As a wonderful host, Vincent was willing to meet us at a certain rest area near the city of Chamberlain, so we could follow him the rest of the way. It was not necessary for him to meet us there because with GPS, we could have driven straight to his town, but in the dark area with no street lamps it would have been challenging at night when we were arriving after working all day, so we appreciated the gesture. The rest area was located on the side of the major highway, I-90. “There is the Dignity sculpture,” Vincent told me over the phone. I did not really understand what he meant. Following his instruction, we just needed to exit to the rest area near Chamberlain.

The Dignity sculpture was really an impressive display of art. Unfortunately, since it was already dark when we got there I was not able to take good pictures. There were around 30 people visiting the sculpture and Vincent was there too. On the way back to Minnesota, we visited the rest area again. This rest area is very different from other rest areas I have visited. In addition to this 50-foot high sculpture with the scenic Missouri river as its background, visitors can also look at the memorial wall listing names of fallen heroes.

Dale Lamphere, Dignity designer/sculpture said, “My intent for this is to have the sculpture stand as an enduring symbol of our shared belief that we are in a sacred place and that we are all sacred.”

In this same rest area, there is a museum dedicated to explorers from Europe in the mid-19th century who came to ‘conquer’ North America. Various animals they encountered during their exploration, were displayed in this museum such as wolves, rabbits, prairie dogs, and the hide of a bison. This rest area provides very interesting information and is worth visiting. Stop by when you are driving through this area.

From this rest area, Vincent instructed us to follow his car, but he did not describe the car, and we did not see where he had parked or observe him get into the car. There were many cars in the parking lot, and multiple cars leaving at once, so we followed the vehicle we guessed was his. It took a full ten minutes of driving before my wife was truly convinced that we were following the right car! Thankfully we picked the right car, and around 30 minutes later we arrived in Lower Brule right behind Vincent. He led us directly to the pow wow ceremonial grounds but it was the end of the event for that day. It was around 11 pm and we had to come back the next day. I will write the story about the pow wow at a different time.

Copyrights@2017StoryLighthouse. All rights reserved.

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