At the Missouri River in South Dakota, where Lewis and Clark once camped on their journey across the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, stands Dignity.
This 50-foot-high stainless-steel statue by South Dakota artist laureate Dale Claude Lamphere depicts a Native American woman receiving a star quilt.
The sculpture honors the culture of the Lakota and Dakota tribes. It was erected in 2016 and in an article in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Susan Claussen wrote “As is evident through history, humans will ultimately disillusion and betray.
“As is such, I have a new role model who is solid and sturdy. She literally owns a spine of steel and reminds me of injustice in the world, but also of strength, perseverance, and survival. She signifies people who have prevailed through the centuries. She represents all who resist and strive forward.
“She portrays a rallying cry for those who wish to be heard and valued. She stands strong and proud, meeting the morning sun and bracing against the nighttime cold.
“She contemplates the world through a poise of conviction and fearlessness. Her name is Dignity.”
A few hours east in Brookings, there is a sculpture based on a painting “The Strong Women of the Prairie” by Harvey Dunn that faces the entrance to the 70-acre McCrory Gardens. The statue that fronts the gardens is on South Dakota State University campus.
About 45 acres is dedicated as arboretum in 1988. That site is used for the planting and testing of ornamental trees and shrubs. The remaining acreage is a research garden that displays grasses, flowers, trees and shrubs.
This editor thought of both statues, as she accompanied her 93-year-old mother to an annual Master’s Garden convention. Mom was recognized at the banquets on Saturday night for being an active gardener, one of the first to always have her hours recorded and sent, and for being the only nonagenarian in attendance.
Growing up on the prairies/farmlands of South Dakota, there are no weak women. All are expected to pitch in on the fields and are valued for keeping the home/farm/ranch running. It is with some amusement to a strong woman, that some, insecure in who they, try to devalue the strength of women and what the accomplish.
Too often those same insecurities imply that only some careers are of value and that others are not worthy. And too often, people feel that women can’t get ahead unless they’re offered special accommodations, which only continues the myth that women need help to succeed, that they lack the necessary intelligence, skill, and determination to succeed on their own.
People say there are no role models, but there are. Oprah Winfrey comes to mind immediately and in South Dakota women are recognized for their strength, resilience and courage.
Dr. John Ball, a SDSU professor and forestry expert took a group of master gardeners on a walking tour of the McCory Gardens arboretum. My sister, a retired schoolteacher, who now manages a motel, and another sister, who is a retired nurse practitioner and I accompanied my mom, a retired school teacher, a master gardener and the mom of six, on the tour.
Ball recommended trees to grow in South Dakota that had grown out of favor such as the Rocky Mountain Douglas Fir and then told us about the “naughty” trees.
He said the Amur Maackie, which grows to 20 to 30 feet, has slow growth and is okay, but warned not to plant the Amur Corktree because it has becoming invasive in Ohio and Wisconsin. It needs a male and female tree before it spreads, but this tree will turn sexes in order to reproduce. And if there is not a corresponding correct sex tree nearby, one of the branches may all of a sudden “become male,” and the tree will take over the landscaping.
Which brings us back to strong women.
We are biologically and physically different from men. We need to embrace differences because we are capable of adapting to challenges, just as plants in nature.
It’s time to stop pointing out that some careers and attributes are superior, they are not.
It is time to start pointing out there are differences between the two sexes because only then can we appreciate the beauty of both.
It is time to admire the strength of women, which people in South Dakota seem to understand.