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South Dakota art counters Native American stereotypes

RAPID CITY (AP) — New public art in a western South Dakota city is being celebrated as a counter to Native American stereotypes.

The Rapid City Journal reports that bronze busts in the First Nations Sculpture Garden in Rapid City depict four members of Sioux tribes: Charles Eastman, Nicholas Black Elk, Oscar Howe and Vine Deloria Jr.

The men break away from the stereotype of Native Americans as one-dimensional warriors, said Edward Valandra, board member of nonprofit First Nations Sculpture Garden Inc.

"They are proof that we are intellectual thinkers and achievers, despite incredible odds that were arrayed against them and against us," said Valandra.

Eastman was a physician who cared for the victims of the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890. Black Elk was a religious figure who became a spokesperson for the preservation of traditional ceremonies and language. Howe was a painter and teacher who defended the survival of Sioux ceremonies, philosophies and mythologies. Deloria was a legal scholar who critiqued the politics of American law as applied to indigenous people.

Local author Elizabeth Cook-Lynn championed the project, which was initially met with resistance from several city officials. Cook-Lynn said it took raising around $240,000 to finance the garden and the sculptures.

She said the busts are symbols of a people rooted in the land with a proud past, present and future.

"We did not come here from somewhere else, and we're not going anywhere, either," Cook-Lynn said. "We're going to be here. This is who we are. This is where we belong."

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