The ‘Dignity’ of All Peoples
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:
National headlines tell us America is divided, and that we are becoming an increasingly polarized nation. We’re told that our diverse cultural, political and religious views make for irreconcilable differences. That’s the impression one gets from the news these days.
An event I attended in South Dakota just a few weeks ago, though, left me with quite a different impression. On Sept. 17, hundreds of South Dakotans met to celebrate the completion of a new landmark in our state called “Dignity.”
Located near Chamberlain at the Lewis and Clark Rest Area on I-90, Dignity is a 45-foot tall stainless steel sculpture of a Native American woman receiving a star quilt. It was created by South Dakota Artist Laureate Dale Lamphere and donated to the state of South Dakota by Norm and Eunabel McKie of Rapid City.
It was December of 2014 when Norm and Eunabel first announced their plans to commission the Dignity sculpture. That year was South Dakota’s 125th anniversary of statehood. Norm and Eunabel wanted to honor the heritage of our Native people by donating this major piece of art as an anniversary gift to all South Dakotans.
This is a very meaningful gift to our state. South Dakota, the state of Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, will also now be known as the state of the Dignity sculpture. Residents, tourists and all who travel across the state on I-90 will have the chance to see this reminder of the dignity of all peoples.
It’s a fitting gift coming from the McKies, whose family history is so tied to South Dakota. Norm’s ancestors came to South Dakota by covered wagon in the 1890s and since their arrival, generations of McKies have experienced the ups and downs in our state. They’ve faced droughts and depressions, and they’ve lost farms and businesses. Still, by persevering through those trials they’ve also experienced many successes, and they have generously chosen to share their success with all of us.
On that day in September a diverse group of people assembled to celebrate Dignity – Natives and non-Natives, Republicans and Democrats, and individuals with different religious beliefs. To this diverse group, Norm McKie spoke these words:
“Who is ‘Dignity’ and where can we find her? We all need more dignity. The secret to find dignity lies in our work, inside and outside of the home. Work gives us an opportunity to discover and express who we are as individuals and who we want to be. The beauty of being human and living in the USA means we can tune up to make the right choices. To find dignity, right choices must be acted upon.”
Regardless of background or beliefs, this is true for all of us.
I imagine those of us assembled there on Sept. 17 might disagree on many things, including many issues found in the headlines that describe our nation’s polarization. Still, there’s one point upon which I believe most of us would agree. The important thing, even as we may differ, is that we treat each other with dignity.