MARVIN, S.D. (AP) — The closing of a Benedictine monastery in northeast South Dakota has left the future of its American Indian Culture Research Center in doubt.
The planned August closure of Blue Cloud Abbey will also shutter the cultural center, which houses a collection of photographs and artifacts that document the history and culture of the Dakota people, center director Colleen Cordell told the Argus Leader.
The center's board must find a new home for 40,000 photos, hundreds of taped oral histories, countless books and pieces of clothing and artifacts.
"Everything will stay together, and we want it located somewhere on the Plains," Cordell said. "But nothing has been determined yet."
Blue Cloud Abbey announced last month that it will close after more than six decades because its members are aging and new ones are not joining. The 14 Benedictine monks who are left voted to close the monastery in Marvin, which has also served as a retreat center for groups and individuals.
The Native American collection was established 45 years ago by the Rev. Stan Maudlin, called Wambdi Wicasa, or Eagle Man, by the Dakota.
Madulin wanted a repository for the voices and faces of the native people and wanted the outside world to come and better understand the Dakota view of the planet, their philosophy on life and their spirituality.
For decades, it has provided researchers, schoolchildren, tribal members and others with a window into the lives of the Dakota.
Tamara St. John, an archivist with the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate who works out of the tribe's Historic Preservation Office, said the goal is to have the collection nearby.
"We're very much tied to the collection," St. John said. "Some of our tribal members have lifelong ties to the abbey themselves and to items located there."
St. John says the center features images of Sisseton-Wahpeton members who helped during the construction of the abbey and spoken words from tribal members telling long-ago stories that today's generations would not know.
That would be lost if the collection goes away, she said.
"Our ties to that collection are intensely personal, as opposed to another collection that would have a nice piece of beadwork or a nice dress, but doesn't belong to our people," St. John said.