Standing on a bank between exits 263 and 265 on Interstate 90 near Chamberlain, South Dakota, is a mesmerizing statue that was inspired by Native American women. It is called “Dignity of Earth And Sky.”
The stainless steel, 50-foot figure designed by sculptor Dale Claude Lamphere is meant to honor the rich cultures of the Dakota and Lakota people. In particular, Dignity aims to recognize the often-overlooked group of women from these communities.
To get the most accurate representation, Lamphere referenced three Native American models aged 14, 29, and 55 and structured the statue’s face after their features. He also spent several years researching this project.
“Dignity represents the courage, perseverance and wisdom of the Lakota and Dakota culture in South Dakota,” Lamphere said. “My hope is that the sculpture might serve as a symbol of respect and promise for the future.”
Dignity wears a Plains-style dress inspired by a two-hide Native dress of the 1850s. She holds a star quilt embedded with 128 stainless steel blue diamonds with color-changing pieces that flutter in the wind.
During the day, this beautiful quilt—which represents honor, respect, and admiration in Native American culture—glitters under the brightness of the sun. At nighttime, LED lights give the diamond shapes a dramatic illuminating glow, making Dignity easily visible from the Interstate.
This quilt is also a significant symbol in the Lakota and Dakota cultures. When babies are born, they are wrapped in a star quilt because they “came down from the stars,” Lamphere explains.
“That’s what people will see as they drive by on Interstate 90, just as they drop into the Missouri River basin, they’ll see the star quilt right on the edge of the horizon,” the sculptor said.
Norm and Eunabel McKie of Rapid City gifted this $1 million statue to all the people of South Dakota. The couple announced it in 2014 during South Dakota’s celebration of its 125th anniversary of statehood.
Norm Mckie joked that it’s not always easy to spend a million dollars. But when Dignity was announced, the generous donor said he was “all smiles.”
The governor of South Dakota at the time, Dennis Daugaard, said the gift will mean a lot to the people of the state especially to Native Americans.
“In addition to being the state of Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, South Dakota will also be the state of the Dignity statue,” he said.
Since the statue is located just off Interstate 90, visitors can easily make Dignity a part of their South Dakota experience.
Whether they’re driving west or east, the statue is accessible from the rest area’s enormous parking lot. With this, visitors of all mobility levels can get from their vehicle to the statue with no issue.
And if guests want to expand their experience further, they can also visit the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center and the South Dakota Hall of Fame in Chamberlain, which is located just across Interstate 90.
Since its erection in 2016, Dignity has unsurprisingly wowed visitors from across the globe. Some purposely went to South Dakota just to see her, while others spotted her from the road and made a stopover to see her up close.
Some got there looking only for a rest stop but ended up finding themselves amazed by the statue’s dignifying presence.
Regardless of what brought them there, Dignity leaves an impression on her visitors – one that is not easily forgotten. Her beauty and, hopefully, her message, will be celebrated and spread for generations to come.
Dignity is just one of the hundreds of statues that make up the South Dakota Arts and Sculpture Trail.
Visit this stunning artwork and join Dignity in admiring a view of the Missouri River and the gorgeous South Dakota landscape.