The South Dakota State Capitol’s art features Manifest Destiny narratives and myths

Mural in the South Dakota Senate Chambers: “The Louisiana Purchase.” (Click here for a more detailed image.)

Watching the current demise of Confederate monuments and Columbus statues, it’s time again to look at art in state Capitols and other public buildings and ask about the stories they tell.

During a recent visit to the South Dakota State Capitol in Pierre, I found the Senate Chamber’s Louisiana Purchase mural particularly jarring. The central figure is a half naked Indigenous woman. The narrative its creates is that she is both hypersexualized and uncivilized.

An angel stands behind her, wrapping her in the civilizing influence of the U.S. flag, a symbol of assimilation.

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