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A n n o u n c e m e n t C e n t e r H o n o r i n g M a r i S a n d o z O p e n s L a V e r n e H a r r e l l C l a r k On the rainy morning of September 9, 2002, at Chadron State College in northwestern Nebraska, the unveiling of a lifesized statue of Mari Sandoz marked the long-awaited opening of the two-milliondollar Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center on a campus located approximately seventy miles from the author’s gravesite near Gordon and birthplace near Hay Springs. The bronze likeness of Sandoz com­ mands the entrance to the new museumlibrary , facilities housed in the recently remodeled former campus library, and a newly constructed two-story atrium for liter­ ary and historical meetings. The invocation at the grand opening conducted by Joe American Horse, a Sioux medicine man from the nearby Rosebud Reservation, would have pleased Sandoz whose own favorite among her twenty-three books was Crazy Horse (1942). American Horse reminded the crowd assembled that the date of the ceremony itself was also an especially fitting time to pay homage to Crazy Horse’s life, since only four days before, September 5, marked the anniversary of his death in 1877. Just a year and a half before this, after the groundbreaking for the Center had occurred, American Horse had performed a pipe and bless­ ing rite at the Nebraska Highway Department’s official redesignation of Route 27 as the “Mari Sandoz Sandhills Trail.” The route led from Gordon thirty-three miles south through the sandhills to the author’s burial site at the “Hill Place,” the last homestead constructed by “Old Jules,” the Swiss immigrant father of the same name Sandoz immortal­ ized in her first work (1935). WAL 3 8 .2 SUMMER 2 0 0 3 A t the Center’s dedication, American Horse began his blessing rite again with a pipe ceremony. Some of Sandoz’s surviving family mem­ bers and the college president, Dr. Tom Krepel, participated in the rite before an audience of about five hundred guests, led in singing and drumming by a group of Lakota musicians from the Pine Ridge Reservation, he concluded the ceremony by blessing both the statue of Sandoz and the grounds of the Center. Expansion plans are already under way at the college toward the construction of a complex that will include both an arboretum and a herbarium, as well as features empha­ sizing all the subjects Sandoz covered in her six-volume series on the Great Plains, the heritage of which the Center now serves. The planning for the Center began with the establishment on cam­ pus in 1971 of the Mari Sandoz Heritage Society, the organization which for thirty years has been instrumental in founding it and in arranging for the likeness at its entrance. The statue is the work of Nebraska native George Lundeen, who spoke at the grand opening after the unveiling of his work depicting Sandoz standing barefoot, her dress and hair blown by the winds, her hands clasping a book behind her where the pages are empty while her eyes seem visionary. Today Sandoz’s only surviving sibling is her youngest sister, Caroline Sandoz Pifer. A t 92, she now lives in a nursing home in Gordon, but following her sister’s request served as her literary executor until around 2000. Through the years, she has worked tirelessly toward the establishment of the Center and her greetings were conveyed at its opening by Ron Hull, longtime president of the Sandoz Heritage Society. During the afternoon, tours of the Center were hosted by Ken Korte, who a year ago last August was appointed its interim director. The Center is the third in the state to honor a Nebraska author, the other two being the Willa Cather Center in Red Cloud and the John G. Neihardt Center in Bancroft. ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 223-224
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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