‘605 Unity Jam’ Brings Cultures Together in Small South Dakota Town
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605 Unity Jam Brings Cultures Together in Small South Dakota Town
Wagner, South Dakota is a small town of just over 1,500 residents located 15 minutes east of the Missouri River and Fort Randall Dam on the Yankton Sioux Indian Reservation.
One Wagner resident has made it his mission to unite all cultures in Wagner and the surrounding communities. Dana Sanderson, a well-respected, retired school counselor from Wagner Community School, has spent decades trying to build positive relationships between the Native American population and other cultures in the Wagner area.
Sanderson wanted to create an event that would bring the community together. Working with the Wagner Chamber of Commerce and the Yankton Sioux Tribe Business and Claims Committee, the 605 Unity Jam was born. The inaugural event took place in 2021 featuring dance demonstrations, live music, food, children’s activities, and more. Attendees were able to learn about other cultures in their community and build positive relationships.
Sanderson said, “We want to see an event held that sends the message that everyone is welcome to be part of a special event that will require us to work together to make it happen." "The 605 Unity Jam will make us more aware of what we have in common and better understand our differences.”
The 605 Unity Team wanted a symbol that would be present long after the yearly festivities were over. An art contest was held for area 5th graders to create ideas that would be painted on two fiberglass buffalo that would be displayed at Wagner Lake. They had hoped to have five different buffalo created over time with 5th-grade art ideas. The ultimate vision was for visitors to walk around the lake, enjoy the artwork, and start a conversation about the meaning of the buffalo.
Well-known South Dakota artist, former Wagner resident, and veteran Corn Palace mural designer, Cherie Ramsdell, was one of two artists who painted the buffalo using the 5th grader’s designs. The other artist was Dakota Wesleyan University art student, Isabelle Barraza.
The buffalo were supposed to be permanently mounted on the side hill on the north side of Wagner Lake, but an insurance technicality has prevented that. The Wagner City Council said they are unable to add the Unity Buffalo artwork to the city’s insurance policy and private insurance would be required. The 605 Unity Team cannot afford private insurance, so the buffalo are being stored in a garage and not on display as originally intended.
On Sunday, June 12, Wagner will once again host the 605 Unity Jam at Wagner Lake. The event takes place from 12:00 PM – 9:30 PM. Free admission. The multi-cultural celebration will feature inflatables, food vendors, arts and craft vendors, a youth fishing clinic and fishing derby, youth carnival games, kolache eating contest, Native American and Czech dance demonstrations, and more. The painted buffalo will also be on display.
If you or your group would like to volunteer, donate, or be a vendor, contact Dana Sanderson at 605-491-0804 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a complete list of events, check out their Facebook page.
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