A couple of summers ago, we took a 3 week road trip from Houston, to Memphis and Chicago, across Wisconsin, Minnesota, and South Dakota out to Mount Rushmore and the Badlands. Our itinerary of Laura Ingalls Wilder museum and homesite visits was a look at history like the kids had never experienced. But while they loved learning about the pioneer days, it was important to show another important perspective to westward expansion. Our visit to the Wounded Knee Museum in Wall, South Dakota was a crucial introduction to an overlooked part of US history, but also a glimpse into contemporary American Indian culture.
The Wounded Knee Museum exhibits begin with a short video to introduce the massacre that occurred on December 29, 1890. Then visitors are invited to walk around to see photos and maps, and read stories about the Lakota people from survivors’ accounts and documents. Most of the exhibit is in print, and children who can read would benefit the most from this museum. The genocide is horrific and tragic; soldiers indiscriminately shot and killed hundreds of men, women, and children. Despite the savagery of the event, the exhibit was neither gruesome nor unsuitable for kids. In fact, I would strongly urge families making a trip to the Badlands to spend a couple of hours at the Wounded Knee Museum to balance their education on how this country was created.
After walking around the exhibit, we passed through the beautiful gift shop and the kids admired all of the handicrafts and jewelry made locally. We were about to leave when we were stopped and asked if we wanted to learn more about the American Indians that live in South Dakota today. Too often Native American culture is treated as if it only exists in the past- but contemporary culture is relevant and rich for kids to learn about today. Native American people are not static or extinct; in fact they are contributing members to society, with deep-rooted traditions and values that are pertinent to our world today.
We spoke with this grandfather, who described how his family tells stories through music and dance. He told us that even though American Indian history is often ignored in schools, there are many opportunities to learn from our communities, such as the Wounded Knee Museum, local pow-wows, visits to reservations, and speaking with local Native American leaders who often do school and library visits when invited. He explained to the kids that he was not a “character,” dressed up like they would see at Disney World. He was a well-known and respected drummer and storyteller, who was continuing the traditions his family has passed on, and living in our modern world.
I loved this aspect of the Wounded Knee Museum- that we were able to learn part of our country’s tragic, often untold history, and make a connection with someone who taught us a bit of his family’s contemporary culture. I highly recommend the Wounded Knee Museum as part of your itinerary to the Badlands!
Welcome to our second annual celebration of Native American Heritage Month! All month long we’ll be sharing posts about sharing these rich cultures with kids. Find our full schedule of posts below, and don’t forget to link up your own as well! We’ll also be having a big giveaway (details coming soon!) You can find even more ideas on our Native/Indigenous Cultures Pinterest board: Follow Multicultural Kid Blogs’s board Native/Indigenous Cultures on Pinterest.
November 4 Kid World Citizen
November 6 Hispanic Mama
November 9 Crafty Moms Share
November 11 Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes
November 16 The Mommy Factor
November 18 Creative World of Varya
November 23 Castle View Academy
November 30 Back of the TapTap