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Garden will host cultural and educational events; SURF Foundation Board appoints interim director
Constance Walter

The South Dakota Science and Technology Authority (SDSTA) approved plans to move forward with construction of the ethnobotanical garden. The decision was announced in the Sept. 22 Board meeting. Called Cangleska Wakan, Lakota for Sacred Circle, the garden will be built on a hilltop meadow at Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF). Construction is expected to begin next spring and conclude in the fall of 2023.

“This is a momentous step forward,” said Casey Peterson, chair of the SDSTA Board and ex officio member of the SURF Foundation Board. “We have been working to make this a reality for over a year and now we can declare success.”

Mike Headley, executive director of the SDSTA and lab director at SURF, said recent private donations and a small loan from the SDSTA put the SURF Foundation in a position to begin construction. The estimated cost of the project is $800,000. With private donations and the SDSTA loan, $615,000 has been raised. 

“We are really excited to have reached this phase and look forward to seeing this important project become a reality. The SURF Foundation will continue to raise money, so we carry out the full design of the garden,” Headley said.

Cangleska Wakan will feature a Lakota medicine wheel, native plants and a space for events and quiet reflection. A symbol of unity, good health, well-being, honor, and recognition. The medicine wheel’s four quadrants represent the physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional realms. It also highlights the four seasons, which are represented in black, red, yellow, and white. In contemporary times, the colors also point to the diversity of nations. 

Future programming will include explorations of astrophysics, star knowledge, Earth science, ethnobotany, biodiversity, and a range of cultural events for learners of all ages. As SURF welcomes scientific collaborators from around the world, the garden will serve as a gateway to this unique region.

Designworks Inc., a Rapid City landscape architectural firm, designed the garden and RCS Construction will build it. Major donors to the project are Dana Dykhouse and Casey Peterson, both members of the SDSTA and SURF Foundation board, and RCS Construction. The donation from RCS includes a considerable reduction in construction costs.

“Their generosity allows us to begin the work on the Sacred Circle Garden,” Headley said. “We are also grateful to everyone who has contributed. It has made all the difference.”

Dykhouse and Peterson have been champions of the project since its inception in 2015.

“For all of us who hold the Black Hills in high esteem, both our Native community and those of us who have come later, the Garden will provide a place to reflect on the history of this region and what it could be in the future," Dykhouse said. 

Board appoints interim SURF Foundation director

The Board also approved the appointment of Priscilla Romkema as interim SURF Foundation director. The SURF Foundation Board finalized the appointment. A search is underway for a full-time SURF Foundation director.

“Priscilla is highly qualified for this role, and we are fortunate to have her leadership during this time of transition,” Headley said.

Romkema comes to the Foundation with more than 30 years of experience in education and philanthropy. Most recently, she served as Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Black Hills State University. Before that, she served as the President of the Monument Health Foundation.


headshot of Priscilla Romkema


“I’m excited to be here to help the Board carry out its goals,” Romkema said. “It really melds my passion for education and philanthropy, and I look forward to working with the Foundation and the SDSTA.”

To learn more about how you can support the Sacred Circle Garden and other education and outreach programs, visit