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Tatanka: Story of the Bison (South Dakota, USA)

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Address: PO Box 503 / Hwy 85 / One Mile North of Deadwood / Deadwood / SD 57732 / Tel: 605-584-5678

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      19.07.2011 19:05
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      A really interesting 'museum', a tribute to the bison and its contribution to US history

      Tatanka,
      Deadwood
      South DaKota

      WHERE IS TATANKA?
      We spent a couple of days in Spearfish near deadwood and one day spent the day in and around Deadwood. This place was just outside the city on the way back to Spearfish just off Highway 85.

      Initially we were not sure whether to bother as there are so many museums and the like in the area but as we had been distinctly underwhelmed by deadwood we decided we would take a look at this 'Story of the Bison' known as Tatanka which in Lakota means 'Bull Buffalo' or 'Big Buffalo'. This museum is a tribute to the history of the bison in the USA.

      TIMES AND PRICES:
      The museum is oopen daily from May 15th - September 30th from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
      Entrance for all over 12 - $7.50
      Child (6-11 years) - $5.50
      5 years and under - FREE
      They have a season pass for not a lot more if you lived locally I believe adults are about $10.00

      WHOSE IDEA WAS THIS?
      This is Kevin Costner's baby. He was very keen to set up a resort in the Black Hills as he was so awed by them when he first saw the area just after he left college. After making 'Dances With Wolves' he became more interested and moved by the story of the Native American Indians and in turn the role of the bison in that history. He spent a lot of time and money on his dream but it never really took off as he could get no one else interested.

      He owned a piece of land that had once been a car wrecking yard and had been well and truly spoilt . Diggers cleared this area but still the dream resort was not happening. He has a series of Bison sculptures created by a local artist ready for his dream resort but for many years these huge bronze pieces were stored in a place away from the world awaiting their new home.

      Eventually Kevin Costner decided that the dream resort was not going to happen but he had the land and the statues so he decided upon this tribute museum using his statues and a huge number of artifacts from the local Indian people, the Lakota tribe.

      THE BISON:

      At one time as many as 30-60 million bison roamed the plains of North America. But sadly mainly due to the White invasion by the close of the 19th century, it's estimated that less than 1,000 bison survived. This museum is a tribute to this amazing animal.

      I thought they were called buffalo. Well, no. ther only buffalo that exist are found in Southern Africa - the Cape buffalo or Asia. - the water buffalo. These plains animals are bison. It is believed that the name buffalo came from the French explorers who called them 'les boefs' meaning oxen or cows.

      There are two types of bison, the wood bison and the plains bison and the plains one is quite a lot smaller. We were lucky enough to see both types in our travels which we were really pleased about.

      OUR VISIT:

      We were welcomed into the centre and guided to a small cinema where we were shown a film that explained about Kevin Costner's dream and how eventually this centre came to be opened. We were shown the entire speech he made at the opening ceremony which did get a little tedious after a while it was interesting but could have been a little shorter in my view.

      The next part of the visit was the most informative and educational. We were given a talk by a Lakota gentleman who dispelled a number of myths about the North America Indian tribes. Firstly their woman are not called squaws, apparently that means something quite insulting, their word is 'winyan' which means sun and something else. Women are VERY important to the Lakota people and the chief will not make any decision without consulting the women. If you make anything it belongs to you and as the women make most of the things in the tribe,most of their possessions are owned by the women of the tribe.

      He also told us that the word 'Sioux' is insulting and came when the explorers asked the tribe in Canada what the next tribe were called they told them 'Sioux' what actually means 'little snakes' which is not a very flattering name.

      He went on to say that when the Tribes refused to move on as demanded by the white settlers and the government at the time the whites realized that they were going to have a tough fight on their hands. They decided that if they killed the bison the tribes would have no food or shelter and they tried to defeat them that way. There was an outright slaughter of these poor beasts and they were left rotting in piles around where they were killed.

      He was very interesting and we were able to ask a lot of questions which put me straight on a lot of things I had thought before. We were given a small pack of information when we left about the Lakota people too which explained how every bit of the bison was used and a bit about the tribal groups, their beliefs and other information.

      Out we go then:
      After listening to our Lakota guide we went straight outside as it looked like it might rain. Once outside you go around a small hill and as you get around the corner initially you look outwards to a spectacular view of the area,rolling hills and green fields. Just a bit further round you are then greeted to the most amazing life sized scene of about 14 bison being chased by three Native Americans on horseback. They are at Buffalo jump which is where the poor bison are chased and as they fall over the cliff they die and then the ladies of the tribe get to work skinning and drying the meat and using every part of the bison in some way.

      The statues are so life like and because they are set in landscape outside you can almost hear the thunder of hooves as the bison and horses chase down the plain. Music is piped through the museum and you can hear it a bit outside, it was playing music from the film 'Dances with Wolves' when we were there.

      BACK INSIDE:
      It just began to spit so we dashed back inside to inspect the exhibits a bit more throroughly. At the start of the museum was a glass case with the uniform worn by Costner in ;Dances with Wolves'. Then as you move around there are information boards telling you about the history of the native people and the white settlers and why they came.

      In the centre is a huge stuffed Bison that you are invited to touch and have your photo taken next to him. Around this bison is a display of many artifacts from the Lakota people. Toys made from the bison's bones, cups from the horns, moccasins from the leg leather, jewelery from the bone, water carriers from the stomach and so on.

      There were displays of the buckskin clothes. We were also told that male warriors wore armour made from pieces of bone that were horizontally across the chest while females wore the same bone pieces armour vertically.

      FOOD AND DRINK:
      There was a restaurant and a café but I can't say what was on offer as we had eaten elsewhere and this was our last visit of the day so we were tired and wanting to get back to sort clothes and clean up so I am not even sure what the bathrooms were like but as every toilet we visited in the States was immaculate I would think these would be the same.

      IS THAT THE END OF THE BISON?
      No luckily despite the fact they were pretty close to danger figures with care and breeding programmes the numbers of bison today are up to over 400,000 in North America. Many are farmed for their meat and others are in the National forests for all to enjoy seeing.

      IS IT WORTH VISITING?
      Yes I would say so. It was not the usual museum exhibits. There was a mixture of film, the fascinating talk by the Lakota gentleman and then real exhibits that you could actually touch as well as the usual ones behind glass. Finally the amazing life sized sculptures galloping across the hill were a sight to behold. It was a highlight of our day as we had been quite underwhelmed by Deadwood where we had spent the previous couple of hours so it was a welcome surprise.

      Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.
      ©Catsholiday

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    • Product Details

      Kevin Costner's museum which is a tribute to the bison and their role in American History