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Sitting Bull Crystal Cavern Dance Pavilion

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Duhamel Sioux Indian Pageant Pavilion
1934. Northern terminus of Sitting Bull Rd. off U.S. 16.
  • (Photograph by Michelle Dennis)

The Sitting Bull Crystal Cavern Dance Pavilion is located approximately nine miles south of Rapid City, near the small community of Rockerville. It sits on top of a steep hill near the entrance to the Sitting Bull Crystal Caverns. In 1927, the cavern’s owners, the Duhamel family, worked with their friend Nicholas Black Elk, a Lakota medicine man and missionary, to establish the Duhamel Sioux Indian Pageant as a means to educate visitors about Lakota culture, particularly traditional Lakota dances, and to encourage visitors to stop at Crystal Caverns on their way to Mount Rushmore, about 13.5 miles southwest.

Black Elk and the Duhamels held the pageant in various Rapid City locations before building the pavilion in 1934. The one-story, octagonal wood-frame structure has a conical roof topped with a small, octagonal, louvered wooden cupola. Double doors are located on each side of the building, which sits on a poured concrete foundation and is clad in board-and-batten siding. The interior plan is open except for a central roof support post made of ponderosa pine; the outer walls are supported by similar posts. Visitors observed the twice-daily pageants from bleacher seating. The interior also included a series of five paintings by local artist Godfrey Broken Rope, which depicted such regional landscapes as the Badlands, Sylvan Lake, and the Black Hills.

Both Black Elk and the Duhamels were active in the production of the pageant until Black Elk’s death in 1950. Interest declined following his death and the pageant was discontinued in 1957. At that time, the bleacher seating was removed and the building has been used for storage ever since.


Ahrendt, Steph, “Sitting Bull Crystal Cavern Dance Pavilion,” Pennington County, South Dakota. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, 1995. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.

Swisher, Kaija. “Sitting Bull Crystal Cavern Dance Pavilion.” Black Hills Pioneer (Spearfish, SD), July 24, 2015.

Writing Credits

Michelle L. Dennis



  • 1934

  • 1957

    Converted to storage

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Michelle L. Dennis, "Sitting Bull Crystal Cavern Dance Pavilion", [Rapid City, South Dakota], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

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