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Frequently Asked Questions

What does Akta Lakota mean?
Akta Lakota means to honor the people in the Lakota dialect. The Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center not only honors Native American people and culture but is an educational center as well. The museum is a continuing monument to the Lakota people and their culture.

Where is the museum located?
The Akta Lakota Museum graces the campus of St. Joseph's Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota. To reach the museum, take exit 263 off Interstate 90. Proceed two miles north, passing through downtown Chamberlain. Turn left into the St. Joseph's Indian School entrance. Once on campus, continue north to the four-way stop sign. Then, turn left. You will take another left into the parking lot. The museum is on your right.

Directional banners and signs will aid in your journey, and you're welcome to call us at 1-800-798-3452 for more information. View our campus map!

Which reservation are you on?
St. Joseph's Indian School and the Akta Lakota Museum are not located on a reservation. However, we are located about 20 miles south of the Crow Creek Reservation and 30 miles southeast of the Lower Brule Reservation. At this time, about 65% of St. Joseph's students come from these two neighboring areas.

How is the Akta Lakota Museum supported?
The Akta Lakota Museum is an educational outreach of St. Joseph's Indian School. As a component of the school, we are a non-profit organization supported by private donations. No federal, tribal or tax funds are used to support the museum or St. Joseph's. We are able to help preserve the Lakota heritage and care for the children only through gifts from generous benefactors and friends. To contribute to St. Joseph's Indian School and its programs - like the Akta Lakota Museum - donate today.

When was the Akta Lakota Museum started?
St. Joseph's opened the museum in 1991. Learn more about the Akta Lakota Museum history.

St. Joseph's students react to learning their culture through the museum?
Many are surprised because they haven't often been introduced to the traditional cultural system before coming to St. Joseph's. It's like a rebirth. Many of our students and visitors have never been to a museum where they have the opportunity to view such a vast quantity of Lakota cultural material. The students can often relate to different regalia or clothing displayed because some of their grandparents have similar pieces at home.

Can you explain what a Living Museum is?
According to the Smithsonian description, a living museum is "a place where contemporary issues receive as much attention as past battles. Where today's art is exhibited alongside yesterday's artifacts; where the education of young Indian students is as important as the state-of-the art research and conservation." The Akta Lakota Museum is proud to be considered a living museum!

Are you affiliated with any other Native American museums?
We maintain affiliation with the Museum of the American Indian and the American Association of Museums.

Are you involved with other schools in South Dakota?
The museum was built with education in mind. We provide services for St. Joseph's students and other schools in South Dakota wanting to enrich and educate their students on South Dakota's Indian heritage. We want to have all students - Indian and non-Indian - benefit from our many services and resources.

Currently, there are South Dakota schools incorporating Native American culture into their classrooms. We hope many of the schools visiting the museum utilize us as an educational tool for their students. We strive to help individuals learn about Native American culture and incorporate this learning experience into their social studies, Indians studies and other classes.

What is the admission fee? There is no admission fee. We want every person to share in the rich Lakota heritage, regardless of ability to pay. We do offer visitors the opportunity to make a donation to our cause; however, it is not expected. Many visitors have asked about our suggested gift amount. Based on admission to other attractions in the area, we suggest $4.00 per single person and $10.00 per family. Group donations are at the group coordinator's discretion.

How does the museum promote Northern Plains Indian art?
We're proud to promote local artisans and their work in several ways. First, we buy a variety of quality work from local Native American artists. We purchase these pieces to display and sell to the public. Through our efforts, Northern Plains art gains worldwide recognition as visitors take in our collection. We further promote Northern Plains art by supporting Northern Plains artists. Regularly buying their work provides them needed income and stability. The museum has grown in to a rather unique showplace for South Dakota Native American art and artifacts. We set the standard for other attractions by showcasing the largest collection of Indian art in South Dakota.

What are some of the changes happening with Northern Plains art and artists?
Interest in Native American art has peaked in the last few years. Many of our artists are naturally talented with no formal training. Yet, they produce fine works of art. Artists are excited to see their work in our gallery. It encourages them to excel.

Native American artists are known for excellent historical scenes, portraits, pastoral scenes, wildlife and more. A new generation of bright and talented Indian artists is emerging. There has been a recent revival of pictograph art the old painting of hides. This revival has also brought about a trend to research Lakota history and bring back more traditional painting styles on rawhide, buffalo and other animal hides. We have a collection of art styles ranging from primitive to professional.

Many artisans create pottery, jewelry, quilts and other works of art for us. Some of these people have taken a little training in the Southwest, but they still incorporate their own ideas and Northern Plains style into their work. The Lakota artist adapts the Lakota idea and feeling into his or her art style. We are proud to help these deserving individuals showcase their talents.

Why is the majority of artwork, paintings and sculptures created by male artists?
John Day, Dean of Fine Arts at the University of South Dakota, said, "Native American women tend to stay with traditional tribal arts such as doll making, quilt work, quill work, beadwork; the male artists tend to be more into paintings and sculptures. However, this is rapidly changing as more women are going into the fine art field."

Do you have any Indian-made products for sale? Who gets the profits?
The gift store in our museum carries various types of Indian-made crafts as well as an outstanding selection of Native American books and music. Most of these items are available in our online store, too. Shop our Indian-made items now

We are blessed with many local people skilled in the art of jewelry-making, beading, quilting, painting and crafting. We are proud to have their work for sale in our store. Many items are signed and/or have certificates of authenticity. We buy directly from the artists, and profits from our sales go to support the Lakota children at St. Joseph’s.

Where do the artifacts come from? Are they real?
The artifacts in our displays are authentic; many of them date back to the early 1800s. The majority of artifacts in our collection have been found in the immediate (SD) area. Some of our artifacts are gifts from collectors or people looking for permanent homes for artifacts they have been storing for years.

Can I buy any of the paintings or artifacts on display?
The items on display are part of our permanent collection and are not for sale. However, we recently opened our museum's Collector's Gallery. Here, you can buy original paintings, sculptures and other museum-quality pieces created by local artists.

How does the Akta Lakota Museum help the local Native population?
Besides serving an educational purpose, the museum purchases art from local (Sioux) artists. Then, their art has a chance to be viewed by visitors from around the world. We also purchase local handmade items such as beadwork, quilts and jewelry for the gift shop. Selling handmade crafts is sometimes a vendor’s sole source of income.

How can I help?
Besides monetary donations, we also accept donations of Native art and/or artifacts. These items may be added to our permanent collection or sold through our gift shop, online shopping center and Collector's Gallery. You can also help by spreading the word about your experience at St. Joseph’s Indian School and the Akta Lakota Museum.

Where can I get a star quilt?
We have a limited supply of handmade star quilts crafted by local Lakota women available for sale in our museum gift shop and online shopping center. View our quilt section for pricing and availability!