Project Spotlight: Preserving the Good Earth in South Dakota

South Dakota’s newest state park has officially opened its visitor center to the public. The story behind Good Earth State Park is just as beautiful as the scenery.

Omaha tribal leader Calvin Harlan remembers hearing the stories passed down from his ancestors about the “Good Earth.” “They talked about an area to the north where there was trading. Where people lived together. It was a spiritual connection,” Harlan said.

The history of the park dates back more than 8,000 years. In the 1500s, a group of Native American tribes, now known as the Oneota culture, established the area as a place of trade. The river, wildlife abundance and availability of pipestone made the area a central hub.

Game, Fish and Parks Secretary Kelly Hepler says the site is dotted with artifacts and lands of archaeological importance, and is the largest, most significant repository of Oneota culture and history in the world. “It is a place of great beauty and fascinating history,” Secretary Hepler said.

Today, state and park officials, tribal leaders, and community members gathered to dedicate Good Earth State Parks’ 5 million dollar visitor center. The center features an interactive exhibit highlighting Oneota culture.

Split Rock Studios, in collaboration with descendant tribes and archaeologists, created an exhibit that presented a balanced, multifaceted interpretation of Good Earth’s history. Cultural stories, interactive elements and artifacts inspire wonder and curiosity about the cultural significance of the park and appreciation for the preservation and conservation of culturally significant and sacred sites.

“Future generations will be able to walk among nature as the people before them did. They’ll know the story of this place. This good earth,” Governor Dennis Daugaard said.

“It’s more than a park, it’s a lifestyle that’s been showcased. It’s a part of Native history,” Harlan said. When people come to take in the sights of Good Earth, he hopes they leave with this in mind.

Sources:  (video)