Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument and James Cook's Lakota Sioux Collection

The final stop on our May 5th drive was to Agate Fossil Beds National Monument in Harrison, Nebraska.  During the 1890s, scientists rediscovered what the Lakota Sioux already knew - bones preserved in one of the world's most significant mammal sites.  This place, called Agate, is a landscape that reflects many influences from early animals roaming the valleys and hills and also tribal nations calling the High Plains home to explorers passing through to settle the American West.  This place is also home to the James Cook Sioux Gallery of Native American artifacts, so it's two museums in one!
The Visitors Center location is interesting.  It's located in the northwest corner of Nebraska.  Wyoming is 17 miles to the west and South Dakota is 42 miles to the north. It is in Sioux County and the ONLY city in the county is Harrison - the county seat for obvious reasons with a whopping population of 251 persons!  The county is 2,000 square miles and the whole population of the entire county is only 1,500.  Much of the area is ranching with the statistics of 25 acres per cow and calf pair.  Holy cow.  If you want quiet, this is your destination!  There is plenty of parking at this Visitors Center for both car or RV.
First, we toured the Visitors Center (opened 9-5 in the summer; 8-4 in winter) and learned about the fossilized bones of the beardog.  While this image doesn't look like much, trust me, these beardogs would be a nightmare if you encountered one!  They were violent, vicious  and scary creatures with huge jaws.  I would not want to meet this thing on a dark and stormy night...or even a clear day!
Web Photo
We looked at all the interesting fossilized bones from different species.
And, the museum there had a lot of other interesting cases of artifacts.  This Visitors Center and Museum were professional done and very impressive!
Also included in this Visitors Center is also the James Cook Collection, which I found fascinating.  I had studied intently the Lakota and other tribes during my high school years and Native American Indians have always fascinated me.  The exhibit entitled Two Cultures, One Land, this collection is most unique of Lakota Sioux cultural artifacts dating from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.  James H. Cook, owner of the Agate Spring Ranch and Chief Red Cloud of the Oglala Lakota was very rare, just like the fossils found in this location.  After Cook purchased his ranch, Red Cloud along with his family, band and friends would visit James Cook and his family.  James would give Red Cloud with one or more cows and in return, Red Cloud would present him with gifts including beaded or quilled moccasins, pipes, parfleches, decorated war and ceremonial clubs, painted hides - including one from the Battle of Greasy Grass (Little Big Horn), a dog travois, leather clothing, and more.  What a treasure to see all these things at James Horn's Private Museum Collection. Enjoy.
The Winter Count displayed in the entryway to the James Cook Collection Gallery.
Dawn Little Sky painted the hide in the early 1990s.
The inside of the exhibit was quite dark and the artifacts encased with glass to preserve them but I hope you can enjoy these photos of the Sioux.  I found them interesting and fascinating.
The seed beads are amazing!  It is very time consuming to make the beads, let alone weave them into clothes, shoes, vests, medicine bags, etc.  I found this article interesting on the subject of the evolution of Dakota Beadwork.
This national monument has a junior ranger program and I would highly suggest for children to learn about the fossils as well as the Lakota Sioux.  This is a diamond site and a must see for all Americans as you head up to South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore and other Americana sites!  I  highly recommend it!