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Avera and CAIRNS Bring Wounded Knee Art Exhibit to Prairie Center

Jackie Hendry

Avera Health is hosting an art exhibit that highlights Lakota perspectives of the Wounded Knee Massacre. The display is in partnership with the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies.  

The exhibit is called “Takuwe,” which is the Lakota word for “Why.” It’s the third exhibit Avera’s Prairie Center has hosted in partnership with CAIRNS, but the first to focus on such a historic moment in both state and tribal history.

Avera director of tribal relations J.R. LaPlante says these exhibits are part of the health system’s efforts to better serve Native communities. That happens in part when health providers learn the history.

“This is the first year that we’ve actually offered this as a continuing learning education unit," says LaPlante. "And we’re really happy for that because it’s gonna be able to be enjoyed and hopefully our entire health system will benefit from this.”

The exhibit features paintings, drawings, poems, and songs by nearly 50 Lakota artists. Visitors can hear the songs by scanning a code with their smartphones.

Craig Howe is the director of CAIRNS and curated the display. He says the wide variety of art styles demonstrates that there is no one way to be a Lakota person.

“We’re not less than our ancestors. We are us as Lakotas. And those of us who aren’t Lakotas can acknowledge these Lakotas don’t have to look or act or think or draw a certain way," he explains.

While the exhibit centers on the Wounded Knee Massacre, Howe hopes visitors also see its modern relevance.

“This massacre did happen in 1890 but there’s also information about Lakota tribes today. And to see this connection and not think of American Indians as solely in the past,” he says.

Both Craig Howe and J.R. LaPlante agree that acknowledging a painful history is key to healing and reconciliation.

“Takuwe” is on display in the Avera Prairie Center through November 2nd.