The Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center is located in Chamberlain, South Dakota, on the campus of a residential school for American Indian children. In the Lakota language, Akta Lakota means “honor the people,” and the museum honors and promotes the traditions and heritage of the families served by the school.
The attraction’s exhibits are arranged in a manner reflecting the tribe’s philosophy that all things spiritual are inside a circle, or Hocoka. Following that pattern, the exhibits detail the lives of the Lakota people in four periods: prior to Euro-American contact, after the arrival of settlers and traders, during the time of broken promises from the U.S. government, and today.
Groups can see culturally relevant art, artifacts and educational displays, as well as a gallery that gives native artists a place to display and sell their work. During strolls around the property, they can visit the Medicine Wheel Garden and reflect on a series of Lakota prayers that are displayed on interpretive panels resembling buffalo hides.
There is no entrance fee to the museum, which is open year-round and has extended hours from May to October. Guided tours are available, or guests can browse on their own and view a 23-minute movie, “Native Americans: The People of the Plains.”
A popular time to visit is during the American Indian Day and Powwow, which typically takes place in mid-September. Held annually since 1976, this event showcases many aspects of the Lakota culture. There is a communal banquet featuring traditional foods, Indian drum group competitions, dance contests for Lakota children, tours of the school’s campus and more.
For more information, email Dixie Thompson, museum director, or visit aktalakota.org.
Top photo by aktalakota.org