July 21, 2013

Rapid City board rejects sculpture garden

First Nation’s Sculpture Garden shot down

3–3 tie vote broken by Chairman Jeff Schild

By Karin Eagle
The Rapid City Native American community, in an effort to create a place to honor their own, faced unexpected opposition to a proposed sculpture garden in Rapid City.

What was the surprise, at a recent Rapid City Parks Advisory Board meeting, was how close the vote was, and the support from a higher level of city government.

The First Nations Sculpture Garden was first envisioned by Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, a long time resident of Rapid City, who is an educator and supporter of her Dakota heritage.

Cook-Lynn's vision was to create a larger than life sculpture garden that would offer the Native community a chance to enjoy quiet contemplation on the contributions and achievements of their own ancestors.

Included in the list of sculptures are Black Elk, Oscar Howe, Charles Eastman and Vine Deloria.

Since August of 2012, Cook-Lynn and the board of the First Nations Sculpture Garden have been meeting with the advisory board in order to address the concerns that the board has identified.

One of the most argued points was whether the garden would be, in fact, a tourist attraction, which is the stand that the board took, or would remain an unadvertised venue that might attract the spill over foot traffic created by the Tour of Presidents that exists through out the downtown area of Rapid City.

The First Nations board insists that this project is not intended to be a draw for tourists, who although welcome to visit, would not be directly targeted in advertising.

At the most recent meeting, which was held on the location of the purposed park, at the former Sioux Indian Museum on West Boulevard in Rapid City, the First Nations representative, Cook-Lynn, requested a Memorandum of Understanding with the Parks Department.

"We had taken the proposal to the Mayor, Sam Kooiker, who was in support of the project, and who advised that we follow this route, seeking the MOU, from the Parks Advisory Board, which is what we are doing." explain Cook-Lynn.

In following the protocol of the meeting, the chairman of the board, Jeff Schild, allowed speakers on the topic to address their concerns, or voice their opinions. Several of the speakers made comment on the lack of parking, and the location which is located between two of the busiest street in Rapid City, connecting West to East Rapid City.

Each of the speakers against the proposal were very clear in indicating that they thought the project was a good idea, which would help in enhancing relations between the communities, but that the location was the issue that concerned them most, as they felt that the garden would naturally become a large tourist draw.

It was noted by Tim Giago, founder of Native Sun News, that there has been a museum, the Sioux Indian Museum, which operated for many years with the same amount of parking. Giago also pointed out that he had lived in the Rapid City community for several decades and had never known any of the Native community to complain about the location of the museum. Giago further remembers playing in Halley Park as a child.

"This will be a place to meditate, to contemplate, not a place for large flocks of tourists to come through," said Giago.
Covert racism or plain stupidity? That is the question

The Rapid City Department of Parks and Recreation Advisory Board voted 4-3 to deny Native Americans the opportunity to place four bronze busts of famous Native Americans in Rapid City’s Halley Park.

By Tim Giago
If you are Native American and you have lived in Rapid City for any length of time, the actions of the Department of Parks and Recreation Advisory Board recently would have come as no surprise.

After two previous meetings, the board finally voted 4-3 to deny Native Americans the opportunity to place four bronze busts of famous Native Americans in Rapid City’s Halley Park.

I felt from the moment I entered the arena of the old Sioux Indian Museum at Halley Park that we were about to face a rigged and forgone conclusion of a decision. That feeling just hung in the air. The board saw to it that five of the grandchildren of Mr. James Halley, for whom the park was named, were present. It was almost as if they collectively brought a feeling of “Oh my God, they are trying to place the busts of Indians in our precious park.”

Most of the people standing up in opposition to the plan were folks who lived in the park neighborhood. To a person they said, “Oh, the idea is a really good one, but not in our neighborhood.” One elderly lady almost uttered the racist words that seemed to be on the minds of those people opposed to the project. She said, “I’ve lived in Rapid City for 70 years and if they put those statues there the next thing you know ... Oh, I can’t even find the words.”

Every Indian in the place knew the words. They were, “The next thing you know there will be a bunch of drunken Indians panhandling and dirtying up the park in our precious neighborhood.”
Apparently the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board is just that: an advisory board without the final say. The mayor and city council can approve the park if they wish:

Backers of Native American sculpture garden pledge three year time frame

By Daniel Simmons-RitchieCouncil Member Jerry Wright said after attending the meeting that there was little reason to worry about an influx in foot traffic, which was one of the concerns raised at a recent meeting of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, which opposed the project on a 4-3 vote.

"This is not meant to be a magnet for people, for droves of people to be going to, but a contemplative garden-type setting," he said.

Council member Bonnie Petersen also participated in the meeting via phone.

The city's Public Works Committee will discuss the project on July 30. If they recommend it to the full council, council members could vote to approve it on Aug. 5.
Comment:  I'm always concerned about traffic, so I understand the board's concern. But I doubt a park with four statues would draw a lot of traffic. Certainly no more than the museum that stood on the same site.

Having visited downtown Rapid City, I didn't see much traffic. I'm pretty sure I saw one or two parking garages and a lot of street parking. Since the area already has 40-plus presidential statues, a few more wouldn't hurt anything.

On the other hand, I still don't understand why the garden has to be on this site. It's a narrow strip of grass about 100 ft. wide with traffic on both sides--hardly the best place for quiet contemplation. An actual park setting--you know, without run-down stores on one side and homes on the other--would seem a lot better.

Even in the artists' conception below, you can see the cars, buildings, and signs beyond the greenery. It's not what I'd call a serene site.

But the park is the closest green space to downtown. Which puts it near the presidential statues. If you want the Native statues to contrast with the presidential statues, I guess the proximity would help.

Anyway, it sounds as though the garden has some support beyond the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. There's a good chance it may happen despite the board's opposition.

For more on Indians and Rapid City, see Natives Protest Rapid City Journal and Rapid City Sculpture Garden Proposed.

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