Stop Non-Indigenous art on Indigenous Sacred Land Back Projects in Rapid City SD

Stop Non-Indigenous art on Indigenous Sacred Land Back Projects in Rapid City SD

November 7, 2022
Signatures: 586Next Goal: 1,000
Support now

Why this petition matters

Started by Charles Rencountre


Stop the proposed NON-Native sculpture by Mr. Dale Lamphere from being installed at the Remembering the Children Memorial Park In Rapid City South Dakota where over fifty Indian children were buried in unmarked graves. The person who has the authority to change this from happening is Amy Sazue Executive Director of Remembering the Children., and the Black Hills Area Community Foundation

The Remembering the Children group for a lack of any official title is directed by Amt Sazue and she is managed by an oversight committee of elders, matriarchs, and an advisory board. Many of these committees are held repetitively by the same people. I was asked to help at the Memorial team level, a group of again, the same people on all the other committees. There is also a Tierra Site Company (also a non-native company) with Amy Sazue overlooking the Design building team and the project manager. 

I Charles Rencountre was asked recently to help advise the Rapid City Indian Boarding School Land Project also known as the Remembering the Children Memorial Park project in Rapid City South Dakota my hometown, as they develop three tracts of land. This land is held in trust by three Lakota tribes, the Oglala, Rosebud, and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes in South Dakota. And of course, the ever-parent USA. 

When I was first asked to join the Memorial park team by the director of the Remembering the Children project via a telephone conversation I was informed of all the various components of the park, such as a sweat lodge area, fifty tombstone rocks from North Dakota, an area for Tipi’s, and a central plaza structure complete with parking and walking paths.

Amy Sazue shared with me that they were gifted a sculpture by a NON-INDIAN artist Dale Lamphere the South Dakota Sculptor Laureate valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars. She said the Lamphere sculptor would be placed front and center in the middle of the parking lot. 

Immediately I asked why a NON-NATIVE sculpture would be placed anywhere on this newly established Sacred Land. Amy replied that the sculpture was free and they decided they couldn’t pass up a free sculpture. Again I asked why not?

Where is all the funding coming from to do this ambitious project and who is responsible for accounting to the Rapid City Indigenous community and the three tribes where and how these funds are managed? According to Amy Sazue the Executive Director of the Remembering the Children group, the funding of the group is managed by the Black Hills Area Community Foundation an organization that provides philanthropic leadership to build community in the Black Hills area. 

I was appalled at how this organization could not see the ramifications of a NON-NATIVE  sculpture being placed on this land. Any of us who actually attended the boarding schools in this country and other countries around the world know the absurdity of this thoughtless action on the part of the group and the non-Native artist. They might just as well put a sculpture of General Richard Henry Pratt the founder of Indian boarding schools, with a plaque stating "Kill the Indian save the man."

"Gen. Philip Sheridan said that the only good Indian is a dead one, and that high sanction of his destruction has been an enormous factor in promoting Indian massacres. In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man."
— Gen. Richard Henry Pratt

The sad part is that the Indian nation's leadership in South Dakota seemingly agrees with this shameful attempt at non-Native public art on our newly established Sacred Ground. Native People are being beguiled, even misled, by what looks like it’ll be new and different, how it’s actually the “same ole story” with fancy wrapping paper. As the committee for the Remembering the Children project moves forward one of their first acts is to receive a gifted commission by a NON-NATIVE artist to be placed in the center of the proposed healing space. This project is in the Lakotas’ sacred Black Hills. It is part of an unresolved land claim won back by the Supreme court in 1980. It is the first return after many decades of waiting. My question is this: why don’t we have Native artists, architects, designers, and builders as the primary makers for what is to be a place that honors our ancestors, and shows all who come, who we are and what we ourselves are capable of building? Native American art in the Northern Plains is at stake Native American artists in the Northern Plains have historically been marginalized at the state and municipal art councils, and we have almost no representation in public art spaces in South Dakota. 

Who is sending the money, and who is really behind this movement to desecrate our sacred ground? I was told by Amy Sazue that the group doesn't have to reveal their philanthropists because they are private funding agencies. It seems this group doesn't have to answer to anyone, just ask one of their lawyers, ​​Robin L. Zephier, Esq. or Heather Dawn Thompson. The Remembering the Children group has a very illustrious group of Naive supporters who all support this desecration of our Sacred Land where our relatives are supposedly buried. There is no real hard evidence that fifty-plus children are buried there. 

So why am I Charles Rencountre so adamantly against the placing of Non-Native art on that Sacre Land? First I am a descendant of Malissa Rencountre, one of the young adults who died of Spanish Influenza while attending the school and is supposed to be buried there. And second, because I am a Native American sculptor artist, and I was raised in Rapid City. 

The issue is not with the artist or his work. The issue is with the message, the message that the White Man and the WHITE MONEY have the power to rub the Native American artists out of their own Sacred Ground, does this sound familiar? It should!!!! 

So where is the money coming from for this NON-INDIAN art? It's coming from the Mellon Foundation, the Windrose Foundation, and of all places, the Monument Lab Foundation. Only Amy Sazue,  and her supposed committees, and the  Black Hills Area Community Foundation know where else it's coming from. It seems these folks don’t understand when you raise funds using baby moccasins in your advertising, you are re-traumatizing us who lived through the boarding school horrors and this kind of advertising is a colonized capitalist mindset at its worst. I think they call this attitude in Rapid City "Indian White Relations."

Proposed sculpture Stereotypical western genre of Native Americans

If we win and stop this action Native artists will have their work and insights included in all planning phases and appropriate locations on this memorial park project. If we win the project will be all Native American-made. 



This is a petition to stop this action!  As Native American artists, We will fight to stop this insult to our relatives and our Sacred Land. Hoka hey. #IAM #indianartmovement #takuskaska 







Support now
Signatures: 586Next Goal: 1,000
Support now