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About Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center

Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center exterior view.

Meet the Past — encounter the present …

The Akta Lakota Museum, a non-profit, educational outreach program opened in May of 1991 on the campus of St. Joseph's Indian School.

The words Akta Lakota, meaning "to honor the people," were chosen because the museum is truly intended to honor and preserve the rich culture of the Lakota people, the students at St. Joseph's Indian School and for the thousands who visit the museum each year.

Housed in the former school building; an octagon shaped building with 14,000 square feet of display space. The museum’s collection features art, artifacts and educational displays that depict the proud heritage of the Lakota people.

Much of the museum’s original collection came from gifts given to St. Joseph’s by alumni and friends since the school opened in 1927. Since the museum opened, it has acquired many new pieces and continually strives to add relevant pieces to the collection.

More than just a museum …

The Akta Lakota Museum is the only Native American Cultural Center of its kind. The facility is more than a traditional museum; its an experience that provides visitors with a living lesson on the Native American way of life, both past and present. 

The museum tour …

Exhibits are set up based on the sacred Lakota symbol, the medicine wheel which respresents the continuous pattern of on-going life and death.

EastCamp Circle depicts life on the plains prior to the Euro-American contact; exhibits explain historical relationships of tribes and bands, featureing items of traditional culture.

SouthTwo Worlds Meet details on the arrival of the Euro-American explorers, missionaries, traders and settlers in the early 1800s.

WestBroken Promises outlines the US government's involvement with the Sioux, the loss of traditional lands and treaties, and maps out current reservation lands.

NorthContinuity and Change illustrates how Native Americans adapted to their new way of life and successfully preserved their traditions and heritage.

Museum Highlights …

  • Lakota Buffalo Days — a thirty-six foot diorama by renowned artist Tom Phillips gives a sweeping view of life on the prairie from the Missouri River to the Black Hills.
  • Buffalo — were the lifeblood of the Lakota. You can feel the fur of the buffalo's coat and see his magnificent size.
  • Interactive displays featuring the symbolism of animals in the Lakota belief system
  • Audio/visual observation area transports the viewer into realities of daily experiences
  • Collector's Gallery featuring original sculptures, paintings, traditional crafts and much more.

Campus Highlights …

  • St. Joseph’s Indian School residential living — Native American youth who attend St. Joseph’s Indian School live in family-style homes on campus with specially trained houseparents. There are approximately 12 students in each home.
  • St. Joseph’s Elementary School — On campus, St. Joseph’s Elementary School educates children in grades 1-8. Fully accredited by the State of South Dakota, curriculum meets standard academic requirements and also offers students Native American Studies, Religious Education, Physical Education, Health, Art and Personal Living Skills classes.
  • Powwow Grounds — St. Joseph’s unique programs infuse Lakota (Sioux) culture in a number of ways. Each year, our annual youth powwow is a celebration of family and heritage. When it’s not being used for powwow, the field is home to St. Joseph’s Braves junior high football team.

Learn more about St. Joseph’s Indian School and the Native American youth we serve on our Facebook page and YouTube channel!