By Bobbie Koch (Sicangu Lakota) Associate AIA & AICAE, and Valeriah Big Eagle (Ihanktonwan) Ed.D., M.S.Ed.
Since the 1940s, our Lakota Uncis – our grandmothers – advocated to bring a Native American Community Center to Mniluzahan Otunwahe (Rapid City). For the past few years, He Sapa Otipi – Community Center for the People of the Black Hills – continues to carry forward our Uncis dream to provide a safe place guided by Lakota values for all our Relatives – Native and non-Native alike. In mid-July, our He Sapa Otipi team shared our story and journey with the region’s design community at Design in the Hills 2022 through a presentation, Q&A, and design charette.
He Sapa Otipi is working towards creating a culturally-driven, environmentally-responsive Community Center to serve as a hub of resources and gatherings for Indigenous peoples living in Rapid City, as well as western South Dakota and the Black Hills. The Indigenous-hosted community center looks to provide a safe place for reconnecting Lakota well-being to character, ceremony, community, cultural awareness, and identity for all ages and peoples. Rapid City is often referred to as Racist City amongst Indigenous peoples and other peoples of color in the city. Part of He Sapa Otipi’s mission is to encourage a broader culture of unity and respect within our Native American community, and to promote healing between Native and non-Native peoples for the betterment of the present and future generations.
Over the last year, He Sapa Otipi has engaged in a participatory outreach process with our community to learn what their programming priorities are for the community center, where they want the community center located in the city, and how this community center will bring healing to our community. Our team has been working closely with the City of Rapid, as well as local and regional organizations to make this long over due dream a reality.
The design charette at this years Design in the Hills 2022 gave us all – He Sapa Otipi and our region’s design professionals – an opportunity to dream an otherwise for three different potential site locations in Rapid City. The three sites included: (1) North Rapid – to be closer to the predominately Native American part of town; (2) Along Mniluzahan/Rapid Creek – to reclaim an ancestrally and historically significant place to Native Americans, specifically Lakotas; and (3) Downtown Rapid – to create a cultural corridor and an Indigenous presence in the city center. For He Sapa Otipi, this activity was valuable and enjoyable. We look forward to building upon the great ideas generated by each of the charette groups.
Pilamayaye (Thank You) to Design in the Hills and AIA-South Dakota for being so welcoming and supporting He Sapa Otipi and this project. We look forward to sharing our progress as time continues to unfold and opportunities arise.
Cover Image: One of several designs presented for the He Sapa Otipi Design Charette. Photo credits: Tanya Olson
The Design in the Hills committee was formed in 2011 by architects, Kris Bjerke and Tanya Davis and interior designer Maggie Job. Over the years, many new faces have trickled through the committee as leadership in the AIA South Dakota organization has evolved, however Kris has been the anchor to an event which has become a much-anticipated gathering of designers in the Black Hills each summer. The current committee includes Ms. Bjerke, architect and AIA SD board members, Jenn Johnson & Brian Johnson and landscape architect, Tanya Olson. AIA South Dakota executive director, Angela Lammers has been a tremendous supporter and advocate to the event success as well.