Rotating Historical Exhibits at CWS

Female students at Stephan, SD, on the Crow Creek Reservation perform a parasol drill in 1898. A large portion of images in the collection received from Blue Cloud Abbey relate to Indian boarding schools in the Dakotas, particularly those at the Benedictine missions in Stephan and Marty, SD, and St. Michael and Belcourt, ND.

The Center has several display cases throughout the galleries that exhibit materials on a variety of changing themes. The current exhibits are:

A Few among 80,000: The Blue Cloud Abbey Image Collection

Blue Cloud Abbey was a Catholic monastery near the small town of Marvin, SD. It was founded in 1950 as a base of operations for Benedictine missionaries, a group whose work with the American Indian communities in the Dakotas stretched back to 1876. Since 1967, the abbey also housed the American Indian Culture Research Center (AICRC), a museum and research institution founded by Father Stanislaus Maudlin, a founding member of Blue Cloud Abbey and passionate supporter of Native American culture. The AICRC maintained collections of Indian art, artifacts, library materials, and a very large image collection depicting the work of the Benedictine missionaries among the tribes, particularly in the areas of education and spiritual guidance. Due to a lack of new members, the brothers voted to close the abbey in 2012 and the collections of the AICRC were moved to the Center for Western Studies. A number of artifacts from the collection are featured in our "Voices of the Northern Plains" core exhibit, and we are excited to present this sneak peek at materials in the image collection, highlighting its potential for scholarly, genealogical, and artistic pursuits. The vestments of Father Maudlin, painted and beaded for him by the Indian women of one of the churches he served, are also on display.

Native American (Peyote) Church

Organized in 1918, the Native American Church (NAC) uses peyote for sacramental purposes. Peyote is a small, bitter-tasting cactus plant of the Southwest. The peyote “buttons,” the exposed portions of the plant’s clusters, are eaten during an all-night prayer meeting. Peyote practitioners gather inside a tipi around a fireplace where they sing and are led in prayer by a “roadman,” who is sometimes accompanied by an NAC priest. This display contains liturgical objects used or worn in Peyote Prayer Meetings, including gourd rattles, a hawk feather fan, and stole. They were donated by peyote fireplace keeper Herbert T. Hoover to commemorate the modern Native American cultural renaissance in Sioux Country.

The Battle of the Little Bighorn

The Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 was a defining moment in the American Indian Wars. Though a military victory for the Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne over George A. Custer's 7th Cavalry, it led to intensified efforts to force Native American populations onto reservation lands. This exhibit explores the people, locations, and material culture of the battle itself, its depiction in artwork, and the causes and consequences of this seminal event. It was developed by CWS intern Mason Breitling, who has visited the historic battlefield.

Twisted Prairie: South Dakota Tornado Encounters

Tornadoes. Twisters. Cyclones. Whirlwinds. Whatever you call them, they are a part of life in South Dakota. NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information reports that between 1991 and 2010, there was an average of 36 tornadoes in South Dakota and 1,253 in the U.S. each year. A total of 85 tornadoes were observed in South Dakota in 1993, establishing the state’s record that still stands today. This exhibit explores moments in South Dakota’s tornado history through photographs and accounts located in the CWS archives.

Thomas Fawick

This exhibit, developed by CWS intern Noah Sundstrom, explores the life of entrepreneur and philanthropist, Thomas Fawick. A man of many interests, Fawick's innovations range from designing and building one of the first four-door automobiles to manufacturing clutches for the U.S. Navy (products which earned his company a special citation for their contributions during World War II) and developing new methods of constructing internationally respected violins. Born and raised in Sioux Falls, the city benefited from his philanthropic endeavors in the later years of his life.  

There are exhibits on permanent themes in addition to those listed above.