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Teach Kids About Native American Cultures in South Dakota

by Eugenia Lazaris

Jan 30, 2023

© Dave Jonasen | Dreamstime.com


In addition to having some of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes in the country, South Dakota is also home to numerous indigenous peoples, making it an ideal vacation destination for family travelers looking to teach children about the unique cultures and histories of the peoples who have called the state home for centuries and even millennia.


Visiting tribal lands, cultural sites, ceremonies and museums is a great way to introduce the family to the nine tribes residing there. Must-see attractions like Badlands, mako sica in Lakota, and the Black Hills, Paha Sapa, are a great way to let kids see firsthand some of the places South Dakota’s native tribes call their ancestral homes.


The Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills is an important stop for any family looking to learn about native cultures in South Dakota. This in-progress monument not only gives a glimpse into the making of a massive sculpture (it is currently being blasted out of the rock in the same fashion as Mount Rushmore), but also delves into the incredible history of the Oglala Lakota warrior Crazy Horse. The museum and cultural center located at the site not only detail the incredible story of Crazy Horse but also the living history of the Native American people, as well.


To get a true feel for the culture through its music, dances, costumes and customs, attend a powwow. These social events are hosted by different tribes throughout the year and are steeped in native traditions. Tribes come together to perform generations-old dances wearing traditional costumes of beautifully elaborate bead and feather work. With traditional drumming and singing to accompany the dancers, travelers get a true feeling for what it is like to attend a native cultural event. Native artwork, handicrafts and food booths round out the experience of a powwow.


If you plan to visit tribal lands, it is important to know about proper visitation etiquette. For example, religious ceremonies are an important part of native cultures and should never be interrupted. They often involve leaving behind devotions and offerings, like bundles, flags, pipes and food. Let the kids know how important these are in native religions and that they shouldn’t be disturbed. Be sure to dress and act respectfully at all times and, when in doubt, ask questions. You will find most tribe members will be happy to share their rules and expectations, such as whether taking photos or videos is allowed.


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