the journey museum in rapid city, south dakota

To get to Interior, South Dakota, I had to go through a corner of the Badlands, so I stopped at the Visitor Center to get another cancellation stamp.  I saw someone with an R.pod RV trailer (Hood River Edition) that was very cute. Someday I’d like one of those for myself. 🙂

I reached Interior at 1:10 and loaded up on gas.  I got on 44W for the “scenic drive” to Rapid City.  I passed the Cheyenne River at 2:00; it was 85°F outside.

The landscape started greening and more trees cropped up.  I passed farmsteads along the road.  Green mountains were in the distance.

In Farmingdale were junkyards and shacks, mobile homes, rusted and wrecked cares.  The place was all ashambles.

I passed cornfields and sunflower fields and finally, more farms and civilization!  By 2:45, I arrived in Rapid City, got a car wash and vacuumed the front floor of the car.

I arrived at The Journey Museum at 3:00.


The Journey Museum

I watched the video, “The Journey,” from the beginning of the universe to the age of the dinosaurs and on to the Native peoples and the pioneers who followed. A self-guided tour began with 1,000 points of light that represent the immense nature of a universe deep in space and time.  A timeline took us from the formation of the Black Hills billions of years ago to the present day.

Archeologists have learned that the first people in South Dakota, known as Paleo-Indians, were here approximately 11,500 years ago. They probably traveled in small bands camping frequently as they hunted the mammoth and bison.

The Jim Pitts Site was an archeological dig site that yielded everything from a Goshen point (10,000-11,000 years old) to a 1946 penny. It was at one time a Paleo-Indian campsite.

Approximately 7,500 years ago, an abrupt shift to a dry, hot climate brought an end to the Paleo-Indian big game-hunting lifestyle. The people of the Plains began to rely heavily on collecting and processing a wide variety of plant foods supplemented by hunting of various small and large game animals.  They lived in pit houses and early versions of the tipi.

Large quantities of prairie turnip roots were dug by nomadic tribes on the Northern Great Plains.  They were often braided into strands and dried for consumption during the winter and for use in trade.


prairie turnip roots

The more sedentary lifestyle of the Plains Villagers led to the development of permanent dwellings called earthlodges. The typical Plains Village settlement was large and compact and often fortified by dry moats and palisades.

I learned about the meeting of whites and natives (Custer’s excursion into the Black Hills), Indians forced onto reservations and assimilation, Wounded Knee, and the idea of Dominion (Whites) vs. Harmony (Natives) over the land.

Custer’s Expedition to the Black Hills is the first fully documented visit by Euro-Americans to this area. Prior to this, Euro-American fur trappers and explorers had probably visited the Black Hills.

On July 2, 1874, the Black Hills Expedition departed from Ft. Lincoln, Dakota Territory, bound for the Black Hills some 300 miles distant.  Brevet General George Armstrong Custer had orders to explore and map this area, report on its geology and determine a possible site for a military post. Custer had a large force under his command: some 1,000 military and civilian personnel, including a corps of scientists, 75 Indian scouts, newspaper reporters, and a photographer. Some 110 covered wagons carried supplies, and there was even a 16-piece brass band to entertain the troops.

The expedition also included at least two prospectors.  Although the existence of gold in the Black Hills had long been suspected, it was not until its “discovery” during this expedition that the Black Hills gold rush began.  Since the region still belonged to the Lakota Sioux under terms of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, signed by Lakota, Yanktonai, and Arapaho representatives, conflict between the Lakota, gold seekers and the U.S. military began almost immediately. The military did at first keep many of the would-be fortune hunters out of the Black Hills, and evicted many others. However, by 1876 its efforts had waned perhaps because it appeared the Sioux would not agree to the government proposal to buy the Hills. Consequently, open war between the Lakota Sioux and the United States broke out in 1876.

Following the Sioux Campaign of 1876 and the deaths of Custer and many of his troops at the Battle of Little Big Horn in Montana, the Black Hills were finally opened to non-Indian settlement by the controversial treaty of 1877. This forced the Sioux Indians onto reservations permanently. This marked the beginning ot a determined attack by the Office of Indian Affairs on the Sioux Indian tiyospaye (way of life). In 1883, the U.S. government adopted the “Code of Indian Offenses,” which outlawed behavior such as traditional dances and feasts, religious practices of medicine men, speaking tribal languages, and traditional funeral practices.

In order to receive the government supplied annuities promised to them, the Lakota had to send their children away to boarding schools or mission schools.  Humanitarians in Congress believed it was in the best interests of the Indian to become assimilated into the prevailing white, Christian culture; they feared without assimilation, the Lakota would surely face annihilation.  The government-run schools, as well as those run by Christian missionaries, did everything in their power to eradicate all Lakota traditions, language, and values, and convert the Indians into white, Christian citizens.

The Dawes Act of 1887 divided tribal lands into allotments of 160 acres for individual Indians. All “surplus” lands could then be sold.  This was an attempt to destroy the nomadic communal lifestyle of the Indians and force a sedentary agricultural lifestyle on the tribes. As a result of the Dawes Act, American Indian tribes lost 65% of their land between 1887 and 1934.

There came a time when the Lakota were in disarray, half-starving on reservations, dependent on the government’s rations.  Then came Wovoka, known to whites as Jack Wilson, who gave the Indians a new dream.  If they prepared and danced the Ghost Dance, this messiah promised a return of the former happy hunting life, with the white man gone.  As the Ghost Dance spread, so did the government’s concern.  Troops were sent in, and in rapid succession, Sitting Bull was arrested and killed, and Big Foot’s band surrendered, hoping to return to their agency.  On December 29, 1890, the military called in Colonel James W. Forsyth and the Seventh Cavalry, while Big Foot’s band camped peaceably at Wounded Knee under the protection of Colonel Whiteside. Tension was high, a shot was fired in the air, and tragedy struck.  When the dust settled, approximately 25 soldiers and hundreds of unsuspecting Indian men, women and children had been killed.

Many of these practices that began with the Dawes Act continued for the next 50 years, until they began to be reversed by the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924 and the Indian Reorganization Act in 1934. This culminated in 1968 with the Indian Civil Rights Act which extended the protections offered U.S. citizens under the Bill of Rights to Indians living on reservations.

In the museum, I saw Native American quillwork and beadwork, tipis, uses of feathers, horns and antlers, painted robes, and Lakota Sioux men’s and women’s roles.

Feathers from birds of prey such as eagles (wambli), hawks (chetan), and owls (hihan) were valued for their spiritual importance.  They were used to make items such as war bonnets, ceremonial fans and arrows.


feather decorations

The Wicoti lived a balanced life.  They provided for their families by hunting buffalo and other animal relatives, who gave themselves up for food.  They engaged in sacred ceremonies to renew the cycle of the days, the moons, the seasons, and the energy of the universe.

The Lakota viewed the tipi, or tiikeeya, the lodge, as an organic living body that they were privileged to use. It was a physical abode at the bottom within its tipi poles and covering, and the top was a spiritual abode. The connection or vortex in the middle, where the poles join, is a reminder that when they died, they went through that vortex or small opening into another world. The world below was thus a reflection of the spiritual world above.


tipi, or tiikeeya

About settlers and pioneers, there were exhibits on the fur trade, medicines, toys, food, Duhamels Cowboy and Indian Trading Post, and ranching. There were informative exhibits on prairie homes, early watercolors of Rapid City, a great flood in town, Black Hills Forests then and now, and a special exhibit on the American Bison and how it became the National Mammal.

In February of 1876, a party of seven men intended to found a town they envisioned as “the next Denver” near what is now Cleghorn Springs, just four miles southwest of the current downtown Rapid City.  By August of that year, a series of unrelenting and often fatal attacks by the Lakota had reduced the population from 200 to 19 – primarily from desertions. By 1877, the conflict with the Lakota was largely ended and the town quickly grew, serviced by stage lines from Sidney, Nebraska and Ft. Pierre.

By the 1880s, western South Dakota, especially the rich grazing lands bordering the Black Hills. was home to thriving cattle ranches.  Today, independent and family stock growers continue the ranching tradition, contributing greatly to the economy of South Dakota. Every year during Stockmen’s Days, ranchers from all over came to Rapid City to conduct business, socialize, and enjoy the rough and tumble rodeo.




I found a Buckskin coat with cut glass beaded floral decoration and beaver fur trim from 1900. It was worn by one of a large group of cowboys who went to Washington, D.C. to participate in Theodore Roosevelt’s second inauguration.


Buckskin coat with cut glass beaded floral decoration and beaver fur trim

Valentine T. McGillycuddy (1849-1939) came to the Black Hills in 1875. He had a staggering variety of accomplishments including contract surgeon with the army, banker, educator, public health physician (influenza epidemic of 1918), and agent of Red Cloud Reservation from 1879-1886. He helped organize and build a plant for the Rapid City Light and Gas Company, and later was Mayor of Rapid City from 1897-1899.

He was on the scene of some of the most significant historical events of Dakota Territory in the late 1800s.  He tended the wounded, Indian and white, after the battles of Rosebud and Slim Buttes, accompanied General Crook on his “horsemeat march” to Deadwood, danced with Calamity Jane, administered morphine to a dying Crazy Horse, removed Red Cloud from power, and ministered to Wounded Knee survivors.


Valentine T. McGillycuddy

The Duhamel Company was founded by Peter Duhamel, who worked tirelessly to create a cattle empire, which became a banking empire, which became a 1905 downtown Rapid City business called the Duhamel/Ackerman Company.  It evolved into the Duhamel Company, which operated the Duhamels Cowboy & Indian Trading Post. Though it closed in 1985, it remains one of the most beloved businesses to have ever been in Rapid City.


Duhamel Trading Post

“The People’s Home Library” was essentially the People’s book, to which people contributed home remedies.


small-pox in the People’s Home Library

Before television and film, the Magic Lantern was a popular form of parlor and state entertainment.  They originally made use of candle light to project images from glass slides onto a sheet or screen. A show might include family photos and/or commercially produced images of iconic sites like Niagara Falls and Yellowstone.


Magic Lantern

Informal watercolors and sketchbook drawings captured ordinary life in and near Rapid City.


watercolors of the Black Hills


watercolors of the Black Hills

Grizzly bears, black bears, and gray wolves once roamed throughout the Black Hills. They were major predators of the region, preying on a supply of elk, deer, and other small mammals.  During the gold rush years of the late 1870s, miners and settlers began over-hunting wildlife and competing with them for habitat.  By the early 1900s, all three predator species vanished from the region.

Finally, there was a section on the American bison, the largest land mammal in North America. The animal is astonishingly agile; it can run nearly 40 mph in quarter-mile stretches.

For thousands of years, American Indians recorded important tribal and family events by painting images on animal hides, cliff faces, or cave walls. Nomadic Plains cultures turned the decorated bison hide, or “buffalo robe” into a powerful symbol of their relationship with this sacred animal.


buffalo hide

With the signature of President Barak Obama in 2016, the bison officially became the National Mammal of the United States. It is a symbol of strength and resilience.


the Bison as American Icon

Although the North American bison population is often quoted as 500,000, figuring an accurate number is a complex undertaking.


The Journey Museum

After checking in to Staybridge Suites, I went out to dinner at Pacific Rim Cafe.  Sadly no alcohol was served.  I had some rather cold shrimp dumplings and a broccoli and carrot with gravy and shrimp over rice as well as some sweet and sour soup.

*Thursday, September 19, 2019*