In Rapid City, the Oyate Health Center takes precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But the center has reported 31 positive cases since early May. Now a new mural thanks frontline employees for their work.
The colorful banner shows a bear surrounded by sage with a buffalo skull. Bear Butte and the Black Hills are in the background. Derek, or Focus, Smith is a local muralist who repurposed his materials to create the piece. There are Lakota words at the top.
“It’s Wakhonyan Mayanipi Cha Philamayayapi, thank you for walking in a sacred way.”
Smith wants the piece to be encouraging. He says a bear is the perfect representation of resilience during the pandemic. The animal is considered a healer in some Native cultures.
“You hear stories about the bear being the natural doctor, the doctor out in nature digging up roots and digging up medicines and digging up food. The symbology that he also encapsulates. He has a great power that he has to carry with discernment. If he doesn't do these things in the way he’s supposed to then it can become reckless in his life.”
The banner speaks to spirituality and culture while reminding people to stay safe and healthy. Smith says it’s a thank you to health care workers and community volunteers who work together to help each other stay safe.
“Thank you for taking that time and that effort to put yourself in that position and again to walk in a sacred way. Because it takes a lot of courage and a lot of confidence to place yourself in the way of that to help others.”
Smith says the banner can be reused and relocated for support during trying times in the community.