It was a celebration Saturday at the Antelope County Museum. Not only for the opening of the new facility but also for the 50th anniversary of the modern Antelope County Historical Society.
While the open house brought more than 100 people into the building along Highway 275 in Neligh, one of the most moving parts of the day actually occurred privately at the museum and cemetery before the public grand opening.
Members of the Ponca and Omaha Tribe blessed the museum and thanked the community for its long-time dedication to watching over White Buffalo Girl. Performing the ceremony was Richard Lasley, great-grandson of Chief Standing Bear.
Lasley thanked the people of Antelope County for "keeping alive the history of our people by having the display for whoever walks through that door and for giving them the story of White Buffalo Girl."
Tribal Chairman Larry Wright, Jr.said it was a great honor to be in Neligh for the celebration.
"It's a real honor to be part of this with my relatives and elders here," he said. "The prayer that was said this morning - all of those things mean a lot to our people," Wright said. "It talks about the significance of what this place means - the gravesite and what the people of Neligh have done all these years to protect that site and to honor it and tell our story."
Their relative, White Buffalo Girl, died on the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma and was buried in Neligh. Residents promised to always take care of her grave and always have.
Before leaving Neligh, they stopped at Laurel Hill Cemetery for a private ceremony honoring White Buffalo Girl. Those in attendance, including Sid Armstrong whose painting of White Buffalo Girl hangs in the museum, sang a Ponca memorial song while burning sage at her grave.
On Saturday afternoon, the Antelope County Museum's public grand opening began at Pioneer Church.
Supervisor Ed Schindler thanked those involved for their dedication in preserving Antelope County history.
"I just hope the people in this county and the surrounding areas realize what a museum we have," he said. "It's quite a museum for this size of a county and I think it's probably as good of a museum as you'll find in the whole state."
Historical Society President George Strassler thanked those who have donated to the museum for the ability to move into the new facility.
"It's a culmination of several years of hard work. It also shows the fruits of generosity of a number of people who gave us the money to do this," he said.
Following the official ribbon cutting, the public enjoyed the museum and all of its displays from the Harold Ritter Gallery featuring the centerpiece windmill and Burr wood carvings to the A.J. Leach and Captain John Hatfield exhibit.
Among the dignitaries attending Saturday's events was Captan John Hatfield's great-granddaughter, Jane Anchustegui, who traveled from Boise, Idaho, to attend the event.
"We have a lot to be proud of. I look around and they've done a marvelous job organizing the displays," she said. "It means a great deal because my great-grandfather settled here around 1884. He bought farmland north of town and east of town, which is still in the family today. We're so proud of it."
Anchustegui, who is a teacher in Idaho, spent Saturday visiting some of the land and even rode in the combine for a short time. She visits the area two to three times a year, and said it was important for her to be present on Saturday.
"I was looking forward to this grand opening, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world," she said. "I look at all of these hard working people in Neligh, and I am so impressed that a small town has so much community spirit. They're here; they're looking at their museum. And they have great pride in it."