I recently was able to spend time in Chamberlain, a community that sits along the Missouri River in South Dakota. I’ve been through and stopped in Chamberlain dozens of times in my life, but I hadn’t ever had the time to stop to explore and give it the discovery time it deserved.
I drove in on an early fall morning taking the back roads from Pierre. Dozens of pheasants showed their beautiful colors alongside the road, knowing they were still safe before opening pheasant weekend arrived in a few weeks. The river winded to and fro carving out beautiful landscapes in the distance. It was a beautiful and relaxing drive.
Arriving in Chamberlain, I first checked out the downtown which was host to many cute shops and restaurants. The South Dakota Hall of Fame was first on my list of places to see followed by lunch at the classic Al’s Oasis – buffalo burger it is! As a South Dakotan, you’re bound to recognize a face or two in their large dining room. By the way, don’t skip the pie while you’re there.
The highlight of the trip for me however, was the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center. It sits on the pristine grounds of St. Joseph’s Indian School. The museum serves as an educational outreach portion of the school. Inside is a collection of art, artifacts and educational displays that proudly showcase the heritage of the Lakota people.
For me, it was more than a museum. The recent updates to the museum made it feel as though I was re-living history step-by-step. The format made the information very easy to digest and understand. The octagon shaped building allows you to embark on a circular tour exploring the Camp Circle, Two Worlds Meet, Broken Promises, and Continuity and Change sections of the museum.
A new component to the museum is a very interactive section called Tokéya uŋkí nájiŋpi (We Stood Here in the Beginning). This new center depicts the lives of students who have attended St. Joseph’s Indian School in the past and present. Students from the school often come to the museum to discover the history of the students who attended the school before them. The exhibits are engaging, interesting and very interactive. An audio tour is available for guests or visitors can join guided tours at 10:30 and 1:30 Monday through Saturday.
Inside is also a renowned collection of Lakota, Dakota and Nakota art, including a must-see painting “The Alter” by Bobby Penn who was influenced by Harvey Dunn. The collection of art by Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota artists is impressive.
This was one of my favorite museums that I have been to in a long time – it’s now a favorite part of Chamberlain for me and I plan to get back frequently as there was so much information to take in for just one visit.