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Construction for unmarked graves memorial to start in late-April

Site of the Remembering The Children memorial.
Lee Strubinger
Site of the Remembering The Children memorial.

Construction on a memorial to honor the nearly 50 documented children who died at a Rapid City Indian Boarding school starts soon.

Officials say crews will finish the memorial by Native American Day this October.

After World War II, the city of Rapid City, through a congressional authorization, annexed 1,200 acres of land of what’s called West Rapid. The move displaced natives living near the former Sioux Sanitorium.

Native Americans were then moved to what’s considered North Rapid. A new memorial will pay homage to that displacement as well as honor 50 children believed to have died when the facility was a boarding school.

Design for the Remembering The Children memorial
Remembering The Children
Design for the Remembering The Children memorial

“The intention is to build empathy and understanding in our community," said Amy Sazue, Executive Director of the Remembering the Children Memorial. “To help people understand their community members and neighbors a little bit better. To understand race relations in our community a little bit better. See some of the symptoms of historical trauma and understand those that are suffering from historical trauma a little bit better.”

The memorial will get built on tribal trust land belonging to the Rosebud, Oglala and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes. The location is near West Middle School and Canyon Lake United Methodist Church.

Once construction is complete, the next phase of the memorial will take shape, which is art installation. Sazue, who is Lakota, said the memorial will be a public art space.

“The spirit of different parts of the story have to be present, and there’s no better way to do that than through art,” Sazue said. “Everything on site, actually—there benches, there’s a little plaza where people enter, there’s a food shelter where people can have meals—everything is being designed by artists.”

The memorial will also feature a sculpture by indigenous artists, who will work collaboratively with South Dakota sculptor Dale Lamphere. The sculpture will likely be installed by Spring of 2025.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.