July 01, 2020

The Story Behind the Vermillion Community Mural Project

The Vermillion Community Mural Project recently completed their second installation of the indigenous-led, community-based mural project that spans across two sides of a historic building in downtown Vermillion.

The group is led by University of South Dakota alumni Reyna Hernandez (Ihanktonwan Dakota), Elizabeth Skye (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe) and Inkpa Mani (Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota) and Amber Hansen, a USD assistant professor of art. 

This year’s half of the mural is titled Wanáȟča, which means “to bloom” or “flowers to blossom” in Lakota. It emphasizes the project’s theme of restoration and incorporates the multifaceted ways in which indigenous women come to form identity and occupy space.

“I really like that we’re taking up all this huge space in a public area to insert brown bodies and indigenous femininity because we don’t talk about it very much, and when people do talk about indigenous women they talk about the traumatic things that happen to us,” said Hernandez.

The first installment of the design, titled Eúnkičhetupi which means “to come back to life” or “to be restored” in Lakota, was completed in late August 2019. This side tells the Sioux creation story and emphasizes the importance of indigenous female representation.

“I wanted to create a space where people felt like they could come and relax but also think about things in a way that isn’t combative,” Hernandez said. “I think that art has an obligation to create tension and create conversation.”

Together, the mural brings focus to the importance of sharing contemporary indigenous narratives and honoring tradition.

The Vermillion Community Mural Projects aims to advance community development by advocating for greater visibility and appreciation for the arts throughout the city.

Learn more about the mural in the video above.