Rotating Exhibits at CWS

The Buffalo: Master of the Plains

The Center for Western Studies (CWS) is excited to present “The Buffalo: Master of the Plains,” a sequel to the acclaimed 2022 show, “Stallions and Mares: Legends of the Plains.” This latest exhibition, showcasing the work of more than 35 regional artists, explores the diverse facets of the Northern Plains buffalo. Featuring more than 60 pieces in various mediums, each artwork pays homage to the buffalo’s significance.

A symbol of strength, resilience and interconnectedness with the vast landscapes it inhabits, the buffalo holds a distinct place in the cultural heritage of the Northern Plains. Revered by Native American tribes, the buffalo embodies concepts of abundance, unity and harmony with nature. Plains tribes hunted them as a primary food source, but conscientiously, finding uses for the meat, fat, hide, horns and bones of the animals they killed.

As immigrants moved west in the 19th century, commercial hunting interests increased. Professional hunters contracted with railroad companies and the U.S. military to supply meat for their personnel at isolated posts. The fur trade drove hundreds more market hunters to the plains, and buffalo hide was used to make everything from industrial machine belts and leather military clothing to fur rugs and coats. 

Intense hunting, habitat destruction and climate changes in the 19th century nearly spelled doom for the buffalo. The roaming herds, estimated to have once numbered 30 million, dwindled to fewer than 1,000 by 1888. This decimation served military interests, making it easier to force Native Americans onto reservations. But, South Dakota ranchers Frederick Dupree and James “Scotty” Philip saved the buffalo from extinction, and through ongoing efforts, there are approximately 450,000 buffalo in the U.S. today.

The buffalo's historical significance, both ecologically and culturally, underscores its enduring importance. As you explore the galleries and witness the diverse artistic interpretations, you will uncover the stories that bind the buffalo to the soul of the plains. Building on the success of the horse exhibition, “The Buffalo: Master of the Plains” continues our commitment to offering an enriching and educational experience to further understanding and appreciation of the region.

“The Buffalo: Master of the Plains” opened April 3, 2024, and will run until Aug. 16, 2024. The exhibition is free and open to the public. Viewing hours are Monday - Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The exhibition is located in the Madsen/Nelson/Elmen Galleries of the Center's Fantle Building at 2121 S. Summit Avenue in Sioux Falls.

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

Gov. Nils A. Boe: From the Campaign Trail to the Office

In 1964, Nils A. Boe successfully ran for the first of his two terms as governor of South Dakota (1965-69). In conjunction with this year's Dakota Conference on politics, this exhibit features memorabilia from Boe's campaigns and tenure, connecting his campaign promises to specific policies created during his administration. The posters, brochures, photographs, and artifacts were curated by CWS intern Amanda Schlampp from the governor's personal papers and other Boe family papers housed at the CWS.

The 1973 Energy Crisis on Augustana’s Campus

Following an OPEC-imposed oil embargo, a consequence of America’s support for Israel during the Yom Kippur War, the U.S. faced a major energy crisis in the winter of 1973-74. Facing energy shortages and spiking costs, Augustana established a task force to enact energy-saving measures across campus. Students lived with cold showers and darkened hallways, but remained engaged, hosting a 2-part symposium to discuss energy issues. This exhibit by CWS intern Joshua Nichols reveals the institutional experience of the crisis through yearbook and student newspaper coverage.

The League of Women Voters of Sioux Falls

Organized in 1952, the League of Women Voters of Sioux Falls began as a provisional league of the national League of Women Voters, founded in 1920 to encourage informed voting and political action on a non-partisan basis. This exhibit by CWS intern Abby Mitchell explores how the league executes its non-partisan mission and the important role the organization has played in shaping Sioux Falls in the past 70 years. 

The Norwegian Royal Visit to Sioux Falls in 1939

On June 14, 1939, Crown Prince Olav, and his wife, Crown Princess Martha, of Norway visited Sioux Falls. Their visit was part of a 10-week tour of the U.S. to build goodwill, and to open the Norwegian exhibition at the World's Fair in New York. For local citizens, the royal visit was especially exciting, given the region's deep connections to Scandinavia. Detailing the events of that day, this exhibit in the east corner of the Nelson Gallery was created by CWS graduate intern Cody Schriever.