South Dakota Explained

South Dakota is a state located in the Midwestern region of the United States of America. It is named after the Lakota and Dakota Sioux American Indian tribes. The former territory was admitted to the Union on November 2, 1889. Centrally-located Pierre, is the state capital and Sioux Falls is the state's largest city.

South Dakota is bisected by the Missouri River, dividing the state into two socioeconomically distinct halves, known to residents as "West River" and "East River".[1] Fertile soil in the eastern part of the state is used to grow a variety of crops, while ranching is the predominant agricultural activity in the west. The Black Hills, a group of low pine-covered mountains, is located in the southwest part of the state. The area is of great religious importance to local American Indian tribes. Mount Rushmore is a major state tourist destination in the Black Hills.

Historically dominated by an agricultural economy and a rural lifestyle, South Dakota has recently sought to diversify its economy to attract and retain residents. However, it is still largely rural and has the fifth-lowest population density among U.S. states.[2] While several Democratic senators have represented South Dakota for multiple terms at the federal level, the state government is largely dominated by the Republican Party, which has carried South Dakota in the last eleven presidential elections.


See main article: Geography of South Dakota. South Dakota is situated in the north-central United States, and is considered to be a part of the Midwest by the U.S. Census Bureau,[3] although the Great Plains region also covers the state. Additionally, the culture, economy, and geography of western South Dakota has more in common with the West than the Midwest.[4] [1] South Dakota has a total land area of 77,116 sq. miles (199,905 km2), making the state the 17th largest in the Union. South Dakota is bordered to the north by North Dakota; to the south by Nebraska; to the east by Iowa and Minnesota; and to the west by Wyoming and Montana. The geographical center of the U.S. is 17 miles (27 km.) west of Castle Rock in Butte County.

The Missouri River is the largest and longest river in the state. Other major South Dakota rivers include the Cheyenne, James, Big Sioux, and White Rivers. Eastern South Dakota has many natural lakes, mostly created by periods of glaciation.[5] Additionally, dams on the Missouri River create four large reservoirs: Lake Oahe, Lake Sharpe, Lake Francis Case, and Lewis and Clark Lake.

Regions and geology

South Dakota can generally be divided into three regions: eastern South Dakota, western South Dakota, and the Black Hills.[6] The Missouri River serves as a boundary in terms of geographic, social and political differences between eastern and western South Dakota, and the geography of the Black Hills differs from its surroundings to such an extent that it can be considered separate from the rest of western South Dakota. South Dakotans also at times combine the Black Hills with the rest of western South Dakota, and refer to the two resulting regions, divided by the Missouri, as West River and East River.[1] [4]

Eastern South Dakota generally features higher precipitation and lower topography than the western part of the state. Smaller geographic regions of this area include the Coteau des Prairies, the Dissected Till Plains, and the James River Valley. The Coteau des Prairies is a plateau bordered on the east by the Minnesota River Valley and on the west by the James River Basin.[6] Further to the west, the James River Basin is mostly low, flat, highly eroded land, following the flow of the James River through South Dakota from north to south.[7] The Dissected Till Plains, an area of rolling hills and fertile soil that covers much of Iowa and Nebraska, also extends into the southeastern corner of South Dakota. Layers deposited during the Pleistocene epoch, starting around two million years ago, cover most of eastern South Dakota. These are the youngest rock and sediment layers in the state, and are the product of several successive periods of glaciation which deposited a large amount of rocks and soil, known as till, over the area.[8]

The Great Plains cover most of the western two-thirds of South Dakota. West of the Missouri River the landscape becomes more arid and rugged, consisting of rolling hills, plains, ravines, and steep flat-topped hills called buttes.[9] In the south, east of the Black Hills, lie the South Dakota Badlands. Erosion from the Black Hills, marine skeletons which fell to the bottom of a large shallow sea that once covered the area, and volcanic material all contribute to the geology of this area.[10] [11]

The Black Hills are in the southwestern part of South Dakota and extend into Wyoming. This range of low mountains covers 6,000 sq. mi (15,500 km².) with peaks that rise from 2,000 to 4,000 feet (600 to 1,200 m) above their bases. The highest point in South Dakota, also the highest point in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, is Harney Peak (7,242 ft or 2,207 m above sea level) in this range. Harney Peak is Two billion-year-old Precambrian formations, the oldest rocks in the state, form the central core of the Black Hills.[12] [13] Formations from the Paleozoic Era form the outer ring of the Black Hills;[14] these were created between roughly 540 and 250 million years ago. This area features rocks such as limestone which were deposited here when the area formed the shoreline of an ancient inland sea.[14]


Much of South Dakota, not including the Black Hills, is dominated by a temperate grasslands biome.[15] Although grasses and crops cover most of this region, deciduous trees such as cottonwoods, elms, and willows are common near rivers and in shelter belts.[16] Mammals in this area include bison, deer, pronghorn, coyotes, and prairie dogs.[17] The state bird, the ring-necked pheasant, has adapted particularly well to the area after being introduced from China,[18] and growing populations of bald eagles are spread throughout the state, especially near the Missouri River.[19] Rivers and lakes of the grasslands support populations of walleye, carp, pike, and bass, along with other species.[17] The Missouri River also contains the pre-historic paddlefish.[20]

Due to higher elevation and precipitation, the ecology of the Black Hills differs significantly from that of the plains. The mountains are thickly blanketed by various types of pine, mostly of the ponderosa and spruce varieties.[21] Black Hills mammals include mule deer, elk (wapiti), bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and mountain lions, while the streams and lakes contain several species of trout.[17] [22] [23]


South Dakota has a continental climate with four distinct seasons, ranging from very cold winters to hot summers. During the summers, the average high temperature throughout the state is often close to 90 °F (32 °C), although it generally cools down to near 60 °F (15 °C) at night. It is not unusual for South Dakota to have severe hot, dry spells in the summer with the temperature climbing above 100 °F (38 °C) several times every year.[24] Winters are cold with January high temperatures averaging below freezing and low temperatures averaging below 10 °F (- 12 °C) in most of the state.

Average annual precipitation in South Dakota ranges from semi-arid in the northwestern part of the state (around 15 inches, or 381 mm) to semi-humid around the southeast portion of the state (around 25 inches, or 635 mm),[24] although a small area centered around Lead in the Black Hills has the highest precipitation at nearly 30 inches (762 mm) per year.[25]

South Dakota summers bring frequent, sometimes severe, thunderstorms with high winds, thunder, and hail. The eastern part of the state is often considered part of Tornado Alley,[26] and South Dakota experiences an average of 23 tornadoes per year.[27] Winters are somewhat more stable, although severe weather in the form of blizzards and ice storms can occur during the season.

Monthly Normal High and Low Temperatures For Various South Dakota Cities (in degrees Fahrenheit)
Rapid City34/1139/1647/2357/3267/4377/5286/5886/5775/4662/3545/2236/13
Sioux Falls25/332/1044/2159/3271/4581/5486/6083/5874/4861/3542/2129/8

National Parks and Monuments

South Dakota contains several sites that are administered by the National Park Service.Two national parks have been established in South Dakota, both located in the southwestern part of the state. Wind Cave National Park, established in 1903 in the Black Hills, contains an extensive cave network as well as a large herd of bison.[29] Badlands National Park was created in 1978.[30] The park features a highly eroded, brightly-colored landscape surrounded by semi-arid grasslands.[31] Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills was established in 1925. The sculpture of four U.S. Presidents were carved into the mountainside by sculptor Gutzon Borglum.[32] Other areas managed by the National Park Service include Jewel Cave National Monument near Custer, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, which features a decommissioned nuclear missile silo and a separate missile control area located several miles away, and the Missouri National Recreational River.[33] The Crazy Horse Memorial is a large mountainside sculpture near Mt. Rushmore that is being constructed with private funds.[34]


See main article: History of South Dakota. Humans have lived in what is today South Dakota for at least several thousand years. The first inhabitants were Paleolithic hunter-gatherers, and disappeared from the area around 5000 BC.[35] Between 500 AD and 800 AD, a semi-nomadic people known as the Mound Builders lived in central and eastern South Dakota, and by 1500 the Arikara (or Ree) had settled in much of the Missouri River valley.[36] Nearly 500 people were the victims of the Crow Creek massacre that occurred early in the 14th century.[37] European contact with the area began in 1743, when the LaVerendrye brothers explored the region. The LaVerendrye group buried a plate near the site of modern day Pierre, claiming the region for France as part of greater Louisiana.[38] By the early 19th century, the Sioux had largely replaced the Arikara as the dominant group in the area.[39]

In 1803, the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory, an area that included most of South Dakota, from Napoleon Bonaparte, and President Thomas Jefferson organized a group commonly referred to as the "Lewis and Clark Expedition" to explore the newly-acquired region.[40] [41] In 1817, an American fur trading post was set up at present-day Fort Pierre, beginning continuous American settlement of the area.[42] In 1855, the U.S. Army bought Fort Pierre but abandoned it the following year in favor of Fort Randall to the south.[42] Settlement by Americans and Europeans was by this time increasing rapidly, and in 1858 the Yankton Sioux signed the 1858 Treaty, ceding most of present-day eastern South Dakota to the United States.[43]

Land speculators founded two of eastern South Dakota's largest present-day cities: Sioux Falls in 1856[44] and Yankton in 1859.[45] In 1861, Dakota Territory was established by the United States government (this initially included North Dakota, South Dakota, and parts of Montana and Wyoming).[46] Settlement of the area, mostly by people from the eastern United States as well as western and northern Europe, increased rapidly,[47] especially after the completion of an eastern railway link to Yankton in 1873[48] and the discovery of gold in the Black Hills in 1874 during a military expedition led by George A. Custer.[49] [50] This expedition took place despite the fact that the western half of present day South Dakota had been granted to the Sioux in 1868 by the Treaty of Laramie as part of the Great Sioux Reservation. The Sioux declined to grant mining rights or land in the Black Hills, and war broke out after the U.S. failed to stop white miners and settlers from entering the region. The Sioux were eventually defeated and settled on reservations within South Dakota and North Dakota.[42]

An increasing population caused Dakota Territory to be divided in half and a bill for statehood for both Dakotas titled the Enabling Act of 1889 was passed on February 22, 1889 during the Administration of Grover Cleveland. His successor, Benjamin Harrison, signed proclamations formally admitting both states on November 2, 1889. Harrison had the papers shuffled to obscure from him which he was signing first and the actual order went unrecorded.[51]

On December 29, 1890, the Wounded Knee Massacre occurred on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Commonly cited as the last major armed conflict between the United States and the Sioux Nation, the massacre resulted in the deaths of an estimated 300 Sioux, many of them women and children. Twenty-five U.S. soldiers were also killed in the conflict.[52] The Wounded Knee area was later the site of a prolonged siege between members of the American Indian Movement and the United States Marshals Service in 1973.[53]

During the 1930s, several economic and climatic conditions combined with disastrous results for South Dakota. A lack of rainfall, extremely high temperatures and over-cultivation of farmland produced what was known as the Dust Bowl in South Dakota and several other plains states. Fertile topsoil was blown away in massive dust storms, and several harvests were completely ruined.[54] The experiences of the Dust Bowl, coupled with local bank foreclosures and the general economic effects of the Great Depression resulted in many South Dakotans leaving the state. The population of South Dakota declined by more than 7% between 1930 and 1940.[55]

Economic stability returned with the U.S. entry into World War II in 1941, when demand for the state's agricultural and industrial products grew as the nation mobilized for war.[56] In 1944, the Pick-Sloan Plan was passed as part of the Flood Control Act of 1944 by the U.S. Congress, resulting in the construction of six large dams on the Missouri River, four of which are at least partially located in South Dakota.[57] Flood control, hydroelectricity, and recreational opportunities such as boating and fishing are provided by the dams and their reservoirs.[57]

In recent decades, South Dakota has transformed from a state dominated by agriculture to one with a more diversified economy. The tourism industry has grown considerably since the completion of the interstate system in the 1960s, with the Black Hills being especially impacted. The financial service industry began to grow in the state as well, with Citibank moving its credit card operations from New York to Sioux Falls in 1981, a move that has since been followed by several other financial companies, after South Dakota became the first state to eliminate caps on interest rates.[58] In 2007, the site of the recently-closed Homestake gold mine near Lead was chosen as the location of a new underground research facility.[59] Despite a growing state population and recent economic development, many rural areas have been struggling over the past 50 years with locally declining populations and the emigration of educated young adults to larger South Dakota cities, such as Rapid City or Sioux Falls, or to other states.[60]


See main article: Demographics of South Dakota.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2006, South Dakota has an estimated population of 781,919, an increase of 27,075, or 3.6%, since the year 2000.[61] 7.0% of South Dakota's population were reported as under 5, 24.9% under 18, and 14.2% were 65 or older.[61] Females made up approximately 50.0% of the population.[61] As of the 2000 census, South Dakota ranked fifth-lowest in the nation in both population and population density.[62] The center of population of South Dakota is located in Buffalo County, in the unincorporated county seat of Gannvalley.[63]

Race and ethnicity

In 2005, the Census Bureau estimated that 88.5% of South Dakotans were White, 8.8% were American Indian or Alaskan Native, 2.1% were Hispanic (of any race), 0.8% were Black, 0.7% were Asian, and 2.1% belonged to more than one race.[61] The five largest ancestry groups in South Dakota are: German (40.7%), Norwegian (15.3%), Irish (10.4%), Native American (8.3%), and English (7.1%).[64] German-Americans are the largest ancestry group in most parts of the state, especially in the east, although there are also large Scandinavian populations in some counties. South Dakota has the nation's largest population of Hutterites,[65] a communal Anabaptist group who emigrated from Europe in 1874.

American Indians, largely Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota (Sioux) are predominant in several counties. South Dakota has the third highest proportion of Native Americans of any state, behind Alaska and New Mexico.[66] Five of the state's counties are wholly within Indian reservations.[67] Living standards on many reservations are often very low when compared with the national average. The unemployment rate in Fort Thompson, on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation, is 70%, and 21% of households there lack plumbing or basic kitchen appliances.[68] A 1995 study by the U.S. Census Bureau found that 58% of homes on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation did not have a telephone.[69]

As of the 2000 census, 1.90% of the population aged 5 or older speak German at home, while 1.51% speak Dakota, and 1.43% Spanish.[70]

Growth and rural flight

South Dakota, in common with other Great Plains states, has been experiencing a falling population in many rural areas over the last several decades, a phenomenon known as "rural flight". This trend has continued in recent years, with 30 of South Dakota's counties losing population between the 1990 and the 2000 census.[71] During that time, nine counties experienced a population loss of greater than 10%, with Harding County, in the northwest corner of the state, losing nearly 19% of its population.[71] Low birth rates and a lack of younger immigration has caused the median age of many of these counties to increase. In 24 counties, at least 20% of the population is over the age of 65,[72] compared with a national rate of 12.5%.[61]

The effect of rural flight has not been spread evenly through South Dakota, however. Although most rural counties and small towns have lost population, the Sioux Falls area, the larger counties along Interstate 29, the Black Hills, and many Indian reservations have all gained population.[71] In fact, Lincoln County, near Sioux Falls, is the ninth-fastest growing county (by percentage) in the United States.[73] The growth in these areas has compensated for losses in the rest of the state,[71] and South Dakota's total population continues to increase steadily, albeit at a slower rate than the national average.[61]


The largest denominations by number of adherents in 2000 were the Roman Catholic Church with 181,434 members; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) with 121,871 members; and the United Methodist Church (UMC) with 37,280 members.[74] (Both the ELCA and UMC are specific denominations within the broader terms 'Lutheran' and 'Methodist', respectively.)The results of a 2001 survey, in which South Dakotans were asked to identify their religion, include:[75]


The current-dollar gross state product of South Dakota was US$32.3 billion as of 2006.[76] The per capita personal income was $26,894 in 2004, the 37th highest in the nation and 13.08 percent below the national average. 13.2% of the population is below the poverty line. As of October 2008, South Dakota's unemployment rate was 3.3%, the lowest jobless rate in the nation.[77]

The service industry is the largest economic contributor in South Dakota. This sector includes the retail, finance, and health care industries. Citibank, which was the largest bank holding company in the United States at one time, established national banking operations in South Dakota in 1981 to take advantage of favorable banking regulations.[58] Government spending is another important segment of the state's economy, providing over ten percent of the gross state product. Ellsworth Air Force Base, near Rapid City, is the second-largest single employer in the state.[78]

Agriculture has historically been a key component of the South Dakota economy. Although other industries have expanded rapidly in recent decades, agricultural production is still very important to the state's economy, especially in rural areas. The five most valuable agricultural products in South Dakota are cattle, corn (maize), soybeans, hogs, and wheat.[79] Agriculture-related industries such as meat packing and ethanol production also have a considerable economic impact on the state. South Dakota is the sixth leading ethanol-producing state in the nation.[80]

Another important sector in South Dakota's economy is tourism. Many travel to view the attractions of the state, particularly those in the Black Hills region, such as historic Deadwood, Mount Rushmore, and the nearby state and national parks. One of the largest tourist events in the state is the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The five day event drew over 450,000 attendants in 2006, significant considering the state has a population of only 790,000.[81] In 2006, tourism provided an estimated 33,000 jobs in the state and contributed over two billion dollars to the economy of South Dakota.[82]

State taxes

As of 2005, South Dakota has the lowest per capita total state tax rate in the United States.[83] The state does not levy personal or corporate income taxes,[84] inheritance taxes,[85] or taxes on intangible personal property. The state sales tax rate is 4 percent.[86] Various localities have local levies so that in some areas the rate is 6 percent. The state sales tax does not apply to sales to Indians on Indian Reservations, but many reservations have a compact with the state. Businesses on the reservation collect the tax and the state refunds to the Indian Tribes the percentage of sales tax collections relating to the ratio of Indian population to total population in the county or area affected. Ad valorem property taxes are local taxes and are a large source of funding for school systems, counties, municipalities and other local government units. The South Dakota Special Tax Division regulates some taxes including cigarette and alcohol related taxes.[87]


See also: List of South Dakota railroads and List of South Dakota numbered highways. South Dakota has a total of 83,609 miles of highways, roads, and streets, along with 679 miles of interstate highways.[88] Two major interstates pass through South Dakota: Interstate 90, which runs east and west; and Interstate 29, running north and south in the eastern portion of the state. The I-29 corridor features generally higher rates of population and economic growth than areas in eastern South Dakota that are further from the interstate.[71] Interstate 90, being a major route between western national parks and large cities to the east, brings many out-of-state travelers through South Dakota, thus helping to boost the tourism and hospitality industries. Also located in the state are the shorter interstates 190, a spur into central Rapid City, and 229, a loop around eastern and southern Sioux Falls. Several major U.S. highways pass through the state. U.S. routes 12, 14, 16, 18, and 212 travel east and west, while U.S. routes 81, 83, 85 and 281 run north and south.

South Dakota contains two National Scenic Byways. The Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway is located in the Black Hills, while the Native American Scenic Byway runs along the Missouri River in the north-central part of the state. Other scenic byways include the Badlands Loop Scenic Byway, the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, and the Wildlife Loop Road Scenic Byway.[89]

Railroads have played an important role in South Dakota transportation since the mid-19th century. Historically, the Milwaukee Road and the Chicago & North Western were the state's largest railroads, and the Milwaukee's east-west transcontinental line traversed the northern tier of the state. Some 4420miles of railroad track were built in South Dakota during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but only 1839miles are active.[90] BNSF Railway is currently the largest railroad in South Dakota, primarily operating former Milwaukee Road trackage; the Dakota, Minnesota, and Eastern Railroad is the state's other major carrier, mostly operating former Chicago & North Western trackage.[91] [92] Rail transportation in the state is confined only to freight, however, as South Dakota is one of the few states without any Amtrak service.[93]

South Dakota's largest commercial airports in terms of passenger traffic are the Sioux Falls Regional Airport and Rapid City Regional Airport. Northwest Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and Allegiant Airlines, as well as commuter airlines using the brand affiliation with major airlines serve the two largest airports. Several other cities in the state also have commercial air service, some of which is subsidized by the Essential Air Service program.[94]

South Dakota license plates are numbered with the first digit referring to the county of origin. Counties 1 - 9 are ranked by 1950 population, and counties 10 - 64 are numbered alphabetically.[95] Studded tires are permitted to be used from October 1 to April 30, except on school buses and fire vehicles which are permitted year round.[96]

Government and politics

See main article: Government of South Dakota.


See also: Governor of South Dakota, South Dakota State Senate, South Dakota House of Representatives and South Dakota Supreme Court. Like that of other US states, the structure of the government of South Dakota follows the same separation of powers as federal government, with executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The structure of the state government is laid out in the Constitution of South Dakota, the highest law in the state. The constitution may be amended either by a majority vote of both houses of the legislature, or by voter initiative.[97]

The Governor of South Dakota occupies the executive branch of the state government.[98] The current governor is M. Michael Rounds, a Republican from Pierre. The state constitution gives the governor the power to either sign into law or veto bills passed by the state legislature,[99] to serve as commander-in-chief of the South Dakota National Guard, to appoint a cabinet, and to commute criminal sentences or to pardon those convicted of crimes.[100] The governor serves for a four-year term, and may not serve more than two consecutive terms.[101]

Currently, there are 35 members of the state Senate and 70 members of the House of Representatives. The state is composed of 35 legislative districts,[102] and voters elect one senator and two representatives from each district.[102] The legislature meets for a 30-day session starting on the second Tuesday in January; the legislature also meets if the governor calls a special session.[102]

The South Dakota Supreme Court is the highest court in South Dakota and the court of last resort for state appellate actions.[103] The chief justice and four justices comprise the court.[103] South Dakota is divided into seven judicial circuits; these circuits are served by 38 circuit judges.[103] Circuit courts are the state's trial courts of general jurisdiction. There are 12 full-time and three part-time magistrate judges in the seven circuits. Magistrate courts assist the circuit courts in disposing of misdemeanor criminal cases and minor civil actions.[103] These courts of limited jurisdiction make the judicial system more accessible to the public by providing a means of direct court contact for the average citizen.

Federal representation

See also: List of United States Senators from South Dakota. South Dakota is represented at the federal level by Senator Tim Johnson, Senator John Thune, and Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin.[104] Johnson and Herseth Sandlin are Democrats and Thune is a Republican.

In US presidential elections, South Dakota is allotted three votes in the electoral college, out of a total of 538.[105] Like most states, South Dakota's electoral votes are granted in a winner-take-all system.[106]


Presidential elections results
200854.30% 203,01945.70% 170,886
200459.91% 232,58438.44% 149,244
200060.3% 190,70037.56% 118,804
199646.49% 150,54343.03% 139,333
199240.66% 136,71837.14% 124,888
198852.85% 165,41546.51% 145,560
198463.0% 200,26736.53% 116,113

See also: Political party strength in South Dakota.

South Dakota politics are generally dominated by the Republican Party, and the state has not supported a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964 — even George McGovern, the Democratic nominee in 1972 and himself a South Dakotan, did not carry the state.[107] [108] Additionally, a Democrat has not won the governorship since 1978. As of 2006, Republicans hold a 10% voter registration advantage over Democrats[109] and hold majorities in both the state House of Representatives[110] and Senate.[111]

Despite the state's general Republican and conservative leanings, Democrats have found success in various state-wide elections, most notably in those involving South Dakota's congressional representatives in Washington. Two of the three current members of the state's congressional delegation are Democrats, and until his electoral defeat in 2004 Senator Tom Daschle was the Senate minority leader (and briefly its majority leader during Democratic control of the Senate in 2001–02).[112]

Contemporary political issues in South Dakota include the costs and benefits of the state lottery,[113] South Dakota's relatively low rankings in education spending (particularly teacher pay),[114] and recent legislative attempts to ban abortion in the state.[115]


Much of South Dakota's culture reflects the state's American Indian, rural, Western, and European roots. A number of annual events celebrating the state's ethnic and historical heritage take place around the state, such as Days of '76 in Deadwood, Czech Days in Tabor,[116] and the annual St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo, and Oktoberfest festivities in Sioux Falls. Many pow wows are held yearly throughout the state,[117] and Custer State Park's Buffalo Roundup, in which volunteers on horseback gather the park's herd of around 1,500 bison, is a popular annual event.[118]

Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose semi-autobiographical books center around her experiences as a child and young adult on the frontier, is one of South Dakota's best-known writers. She used her experiences growing up on a homestead near De Smet as the basis for four of her novels: By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, and The First Four Years.[119] Another literary figure from the state is Black Elk, whose narration of the Indian Wars and Ghost Dance movement and thoughts on Native American religion forms the basis of the book Black Elk Speaks.[120]

South Dakota has also produced several notable painters. Harvey Dunn grew up on a homestead near Manchester in the late 19th century. While most of his career was spent as an illustrator, Dunn's most famous works, showing various scenes of frontier life, were completed near the end of his career.[121] Oscar Howe was born on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation and won fame for his watercolor paintings.[122] Howe was one of the first Native American painters to produce works heavily influenced by abstraction, as opposed to ones relying on more traditional styles. Terry Redlin, originally from Watertown, is an accomplished painter of rural and wildlife scenes. Many of Redlin's works are on display at the Redlin Art Center in Watertown.[123]

Cities and towns

See also: List of cities in South Dakota.

Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota, with an estimated 2007 population of 151,505,[124] and a metropolitan area population of 227,171.[125] The city, founded in 1856, is located in the southeast corner of the state.[126] Retail and financial services have assumed greater importance in Sioux Falls, where the economy was originally centered on agri-business and quarrying.

Rapid City, with a 2007 estimated population of 63,997,[124] and a metropolitan area population of 120,279,[125] is the second-largest city in the state. It is located on the eastern edge of the Black Hills, and was founded in 1876.[127] Rapid City's economy is largely based on tourism and defense spending, due to the close proximity of tourist attractions in the Black Hills and Ellsworth Air Force Base.

Aberdeen, is the 3rd largest city in South Dakota, with an estimated population of 24,410,[124] and a micropolitan area population of 39,827.[128] Located in the northeast corner of the state, it was founded in 1881 during the expansion of the Milwaukee Railroad.

The next seven largest cities in the state, in order of descending 2007 population, are Watertown (20,530), Brookings (19,463), Mitchell (14,832), Pierre (14,032), Yankton (13,643), Huron (10,902), and Vermillion (10,251).[124] Pierre is the state capital, and Brookings and Vermillion are the locations of the state's two largest universities. Of the ten largest cities in the state, Rapid City is the only one located west of the Missouri River.[124] [129]

Several large Indian reservations are located in the western half of the state including, but not limited to, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, and the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.


South Dakota's first newspaper, the Dakota Democrat, began publishing in Yankton in 1858.[130] Today, the largest newspaper in the state is the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, with a Sunday circulation of 63,701 and a weekday circulation of 44,334.[131] The Rapid City Journal, with a Sunday circulation of 32,638 and a weekday circulation of 27,827, is South Dakota's second largest newspaper.[131] The next four largest newspapers in the state are the Aberdeen American News, the Watertown Public Opinion, the Huron Plainsman, and the Brookings Register.[131] In 1981, Tim Giago founded the Lakota Times as a newspaper for the local American Indian community on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The newspaper, now published in New York and known as Indian Country Today, is currently available in every state in the country.[132]

There are currently nine television stations broadcasting in South Dakota;[133] South Dakota Public Television broadcasts from a number of locations around the state, while the other stations broadcast from either Sioux Falls or Rapid City. The two largest television media markets in South Dakota are Sioux Falls-Mitchell, with a viewership of 246,020, and Rapid City, with a viewership of 91,070.[134] The two markets rank as 114th and 177th largest in the United States, respectively.[134] The first television station in the state, KELO-TV, began airing in Sioux Falls in 1953. Among KELO's early programs was Captain 11, an afternoon children's program. Captain 11 ran from 1955 until 1996, making it the longest continuously running children's television program in the nation.[135]

A number of South Dakotans are famous for their work in the fields of television and publishing. Former NBC Nightly News anchor and author Tom Brokaw is from Webster and Yankton,[136] USA Today founder Al Neuharth is from Eureka and Alpena,[137] gameshow host Bob Barker spent much of his childhood in Mission,[138] and entertainment news hosts Pat O'Brien[139] and Mary Hart[140] are both from Sioux Falls.


See also: List of colleges and universities in South Dakota and List of high schools in South Dakota.

As of 2006, South Dakota has a total primary and secondary school enrollment of 136,872, with 120,278 of these students being educated in the public school system.[141] There are 703 public schools[142] in 168 school districts,[143] giving South Dakota the highest number of schools per capita in the United States.[144] The current high school graduation rate is 89.9%,[145] and the average ACT score is 21.8, slightly above the national average of 21.1.[146] 84.6% of the adult population has earned at least a high school diploma, and 21.5% has earned a bachelor's degree or higher.[64] South Dakota's average public school teacher salary of $34,040, compared to a national average of $47,674, is the lowest in the nation.[147]

The South Dakota Board of Regents, whose members are appointed by the governor, controls the six public universities in the state. South Dakota State University (SDSU), in Brookings, is the largest university in the state, with an enrollment of 11,377.[148] The University of South Dakota (USD), in Vermillion, is the state's oldest university, and has the only law and medical schools in the state. South Dakota also has several private universities, the largest of which is Augustana College in Sioux Falls.[148]

Sports and recreation

Organized sports

Because of its low population, South Dakota does not host any major league professional sports franchises. The state does have a number of minor league teams, all of which play in either Sioux Falls or Rapid City. Sioux Falls is currently home to four teams: the Sioux Falls Canaries (baseball), the Sioux Falls Skyforce (basketball), the Sioux Falls Stampede (hockey), and the Sioux Falls Storm (arena football).[149] The Canaries play at Sioux Falls Stadium, while the others play at the Sioux Falls Arena. Rapid City has a hockey team named the Rapid City Rush. The Rush recently began their inaugural season at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.[150]

Universities in South Dakota host a variety of sports programs. For many years, South Dakota was one of the only states in the country without a NCAA Division I football or basketball team. However, several years ago SDSU decided to move their teams from Division II to Division I,[151] a move that has since been followed by the University of South Dakota.[152] Other universities in the state compete at the NCAA's Division II or III levels, or in the NAIA.

Famous South Dakota athletes include Billy Mills and Adam Vinatieri. Mills is from the town of Pine Ridge and competed at the 1964 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, becoming the only American to win a gold medal in the 10,000 meter event.[153] Vinatieri is an NFL placekicker who grew up in Yankton and attended SDSU.[154]


Fishing and hunting are both popular outdoor activities in South Dakota. Fishing contributes over $170 million to South Dakota's economy,[155] and hunting contributes over $190 million.[156] In 2007, over 275,000 hunting licences and 175,000 fishing licences were sold in the state; around half of the hunting licences and over two-thirds of the fishing licences were purchased by South Dakotans.[157] Popular species of game include pheasants, white-tailed deer, mule deer, and turkeys, as well as waterfowl such as Canada geese, snow geese, and mallards. Targets of anglers include walleye in the eastern glacial lakes and Missouri River reservoirs,[158] chinook salmon in Lake Oahe,[158] and trout in the Black Hills.[159]

Other sports, such as cycling and running, are also popular in the state. In 1991, the state opened the George S. Mickelson Trail, a 114 mile (183 km) rail trail in the Black Hills.[160] Besides being popular with cyclists, the trail is also the site of a portion of the annual Mount Rushmore marathon; all of the marathon's course is at an elevation of over 4,000 feet (1,200 m).[161] Other events in the state include the Tour de Kota, a 449 mile (772 km), eight-day cycling event that covers much of the eastern part of the South Dakota,[162] and the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which draws thousands of participants from around the United States.

State symbols

Some of South Dakota's official state symbols include:[163]

State bird

Ring-neck Pheasant

State flower

American Pasque flower

State tree

Black Hills Spruce

State nicknames: Mount Rushmore State (official), Coyote state & Sunshine state (both unofficial)

State motto: "Under God, the people rule"

State slogan: "Great Faces. Great Places."

State mineral

Rose quartz

State insect

Honey bee - Apis mellifera L.

State animal


State fish


State gemstone

Fairburn agate

State jewelry: Black Hills Gold

State dessert: Kuchen

State drink


State bread: Fry bread

State grass

Western Wheat grass

State sport


State song

"Hail, South Dakota!"

State fossil


State soil

Houdek loam

See also


External links

Notes and References

  1. Hasselstrom, pp. 2-4.
  2. Web site: Population Density by State: 2000. Northeast-Midwest Institute. 2008-08-08.
  3. Census Regions and Divisions of the United States
  4. Johnson, Dirk. Gold Divides Dakotans as River Did The New York Times. October 9, 1988. (accessed 2008-2-14)
  5. Web site: Eastern South Dakota Wetlands. United States Geological Survey. 2009-01-25.
  6. Web site: South Dakota's Physiographic Regions. Northern State University. 2008-11-28.
  7. Schell, pp. 4-6.
  8. Web site: Pleistocene Deposits. South Dakota Department of Environment & Natural Resources. 2008-11-28.
  9. Schell, p. 6.
  10. Web site: Mesozoic Formations. South Dakota Department of Environment & Natural Resources. 2008-11-28.
  11. Web site: Tertiary Formations. South Dakota Department of Environment & Natural Resources. 2008-11-28.
  12. Web site: The Geology of South Dakota. Northern State University. 2008-08-29.
  13. Web site: Precambrian Formations. South Dakota Department of Environment & Natural Resources. 2008-11-28.
  14. Web site: Paleozoic Formations. South Dakota Department of Environment & Natural Resources. 2008-11-28.
  15. Web site: A Short Introduction to Terrestrial Biomes. 2007-09-22.
  16. Web site: South Dakota Flora. Northern State University. 2007-09-22.
  17. Web site: South Dakota Fauna. Northern State University. 2007-09-22.
  18. Web site: Ring-Necked Pheasant. Northern State University. 2007-09-22.
  19. Hetland, Cara. South Dakota bald eagles make a comeback Minnesota Public Radio. February 8, 2007. (accessed September 22, 2007).
  20. Web site: Paddlefish. Northern State University. 2007-09-22.
  21. Web site: Pines of South Dakota. Northern State University. 2007-09-22.
  22. Web site: Mountain Goat. South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks. 2007-09-22.
  23. Web site: General Facts About Mountain Lions. South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks. 2007-09-22.
  24. Web site: Climate of South Dakota. National Climatic Data Center. 2008-11-26. PDF.
  25. Web site: Precipitation Normals (1971-2000). South Dakota State University. 2008-11-26.
  26. Web site: Tornado Climatology. National Severe Storms Laboratory. 2009-02-07.
  27. Web site: Climate of South Dakota. PDF,CSV. National Climatic Data Center. 2008-01-01.
  29. Web site: Wind Cave History. National Park Service. 2007-08-28.
  30. Web site: Frequently Asked Questions (Badlands National Park). National Park Service. 2007-08-27.
  31. Web site: Badlands. National Park Service. 2007-08-27.
  32. Web site: Carving History. National Park Service. 2007-08-27.
  33. Web site: South Dakota. National Park Service. 2007-08-28.
  34. Hetland, Cara. Crazy Horse Memorial turns 60 this year Minnesota Public Radio. June 8, 2008. (accessed February 7, 2009).
  35. Schell, p. 15.
  36. Schell, pp. 16-18.
  37. Staff, Crow Creek Massacre, University of South Dakota
  38. Web site: Gaultier De La Verendrye, Louis-Joseph. Dictionary of Canadian Biography. 2007-04-09.
  39. Schell, pp. 18-21.
  40. Web site: Louisiana Purchase. National Park Service. 2007-04-10.
  41. Web site: Teaching With Documents: The Lewis and Clark Expedition. The National Archives. 2007-12-16.
  42. Web site: Chronology of South Dakota History. South Dakota Historical Society. 2007-09-03.
  43. Web site: 1858 "Treaty of Washington". Minnesota Historical Society. 2007-08-28.
  44. Schell, pp. 72-73.
  45. Schell, p. 72.
  46. Web site: Dakota Territory History. Union County Historical Society. 2007-09-03.
  47. Schell, pp 168-170.
  48. Schell, p. 113.
  49. Schell, p. 129.
  50. Schell, pp. 140-144.
  51. Web site: Dakota Territory and Statehood. Library of Congress. 2008-12-16.
  52. Web site: Massacre at Wounded Knee, 1890. 2007-04-04.
  53. Schell, pp. 361-362.
  54. Web site: Drought in the Dust Bowl Years. National Drought Mitigation Center. 2007-04-04.
  55. Web site: Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990. United States Census Bureau. 2008-12-14.
  56. Schell, pp. 317-320.
  57. Schell, pp. 323-325.
  58. Hetland, Cara. Sioux Falls 25 years after Citibank's arrival. Minnesota Public Radio. February 24, 2006. (accessed March 23, 2007)
  59. Web site: Homestake Strikes Gold Again. South Dakota Science and Technology Authority. 2007-08-28.
  60. Web site: Sweeping out the Plains. 2007-04-05.
  61. Web site: State & County QuickFacts (South Dakota). United States Census Bureau. 2008-08-22.
  62. Web site: Population Density by State: 2000. Northeast-Midwest Institute. 2008-12-06.
  63. Web site: Population and Population Centers by State - 2000. United States Census Bureau. 2007-08-18.
  64. Web site: Quick Tables. United States Census Bureau. 2008-08-29.
  65. Web site: Color them plain but successful. The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. 2008-12-14.
  66. Web site: States Ranked by American Indian and Alaska Native Population, July 1, 1999. United States Census Bureau. 2008-12-14.
  67. Web site: Press Releases - Uniquely South Dakota. South Dakota Department of Tourism. 2008-08-22.
  68. Hetland, Cara. South Dakota has nation's poorest county. Minnesota Public Radio. October 1, 2002. (accessed December 19, 2008)
  69. Web site: Transportation and Tourism Development at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Federal Highway Administration. 2008-12-19.
  70. Web site: Most Spoken Languages in South Dakota. 2007-08-18.
  71. O'Driscoll, Patrick. Sioux Falls powers South Dakota growth USA Today. March 12, 2001. (accessed December 16, 2008)
  72. Web site: South Dakota state and county demographic profiles. South Dakota State University. 2008-12-16.
  73. Web site: 100 Fastest Growing Counties. United States Census Bureau. 2007-04-10.
  74. Web site: State Membership Report - South Dakota. Association of Religion Data Archives. 2008-11-30.
  75. Web site: American Religious Identification Survey. Exhibit 15. The Graduate Center, City University of New York. 2007-04-06.
  76. Web site: Gross Domestic Product (GDP) By State (Table 5). Bureau of Economic Analyses. 2007-09-08.
  77. Web site: Unemployment state by state. 2007-09-08.
  78. Reha, Bob. South Dakota's Ellsworth AFB to stay open. Minnesota Public Radio. August 26, 2005. (accessed September 8, 2007)
  79. Web site: State Marketing Profiles: South Dakota. United States Department of Agriculture. 2008-01-18.
  80. Web site: Ethanol Production By State. Nebraska Energy Office. 2007-06-30.
  81. Web site: Sturgis Rally Attendance Statistics. 2007-04-06.
  82. Web site: South Dakota Tourism Statistics. South Dakota Department of Tourism. 2007-04-06.
  83. Web site: States Ranked by Total State Taxes and Per Capita Amount: 2005. U.S. Census Bureau. 2007-04-04.
  84. Web site: New Business Information. South Dakota Department of Revenue & Regulation. 2008-01-27.
  85. Web site: Inheritance/Estate Tax. South Dakota Department of Revenue & Regulation. 2008-01-27.
  86. Web site: State Sales Tax Rates. Federation of Tax Administrators. 2007-12-18.
  87. Web site: South Dakota Department of Revenue & Regulation. Special Tax Information. 2008-03-18.
  88. Web site: General Information/Key Facts. South Dakota Department of Transportation. 2007-09-03.
  89. Web site: South Dakota. National Scenic Byways Program. 2008-01-24.
  90. Web site: Basic Mileage. South Dakota Department of Transportation. 2007-09-03.
  91. Web site: BNSF. South Dakota Department of Transportation. 2007-09-03.
  92. Web site: DM&E. South Dakota Department of Transportation. 2007-09-03.
  93. Web site: Planning a Trip. 2007-09-03.
  94. Web site: What is Essential Air Service?. United States Department of Transportation. 2008-12-13. PDF.
  95. Web site: South Dakota License Plates, 1969-present. Nicholson. David. 2008. 2008-05-07.
  96. Web site: Are studded tires permitted on South Dakota roads?. South Dakota Highway Patrol. 2008-01-24.
  97. Web site: Article XXIII, Section 1, Constitution of South Dakota. South Dakota Legislature. 2008-11-26.
  98. Web site: Article IV, Section 1, Constitution of South Dakota. South Dakota Legislature. 2008-11-26.
  99. Web site: Article IV, Section 3, Constitution of South Dakota. South Dakota Legislature. 2008-11-26.
  100. Web site: Article IV, Section 4, Constitution of South Dakota. South Dakota Legislature. 2008-11-26.
  101. Web site: Article IV, Section 2, Constitution of South Dakota. South Dakota Legislature. 2008-11-26.
  102. Web site: Fact Sheet. State of South Dakota. 2008-11-26.
  103. Web site: Overview - UJS. South Dakota Unified Judicial System. 2008-11-12.
  104. Web site: How to reach South Dakota's Congressional Delegation. State of South Dakota. 2008-01-22.
  105. Web site: U.S. Electoral College - 2008 Presidential Election. 2008-12-15.
  106. Web site: U.S. Electoral College - Frequently Asked Questions. 2008-12-15.
  107. Web site: McGOVERN, George Stanley, (1922-). Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. 2007-10-05.
  108. Web site: Presidential General Election Graph Comparison - South Dakota. 2007-10-05.
  109. Web site: South Dakota Voter Registration Statistics. South Dakota Secretary of State. 2007-04-10.
  110. Web site: Official List of South Dakota Representatives. State of South Dakota. 2007-04-10.
  111. Web site: Official List of South Dakota Senators. State of South Dakota. 2007-04-10.
  112. Web site: Daschle Loses S.D. Senate Seat to Thune. 2007-04-10.
  113. Web site: South Dakota Lottery History. South Dakota Lottery. 2007-04-09.
  114. Web site: Quality Counts 2000 - Who Should Teach?. Education Week. 2007-04-09.
  115. News: South Dakota Abortion Ban Rejected. USA Today. November 8, 2006. 2008-12-14.
  116. Web site: Czech Days. South Dakota Office of Tourism. 2008-12-19.
  117. Web site: Powwows and Celebrations. South Dakota Office of Tourism. 2008-12-19.
  118. Web site: Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup. South Dakota Office of Tourism. 2008-12-19.
  119. Web site: Laura's History. Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum. 2008-12-19.
  120. Web site: Black Elk. C-Span - American Writers. 2008-12-19.
  121. Hasselstrom, pp. 34-36.
  122. Hasselstrom, pp. 215-217.
  123. Web site: Terry Redlin. South Dakota Hall of Fame. 2008-12-19.
  124. Web site: Annual Estimates of the Population for all Incorporated Places in South Dakota: 2000-2007. United States Census Bureau. 2008-07-16.
  125. Web site: Annual Estimates of the Population of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas: 2000-2007. CSV. 2007 Population Estimates. United States Census Bureau, Population Division. 2008-07-16.
  126. Web site: History of Sioux Falls. City of Sioux Falls. 2008-10-06.
  127. Web site: Historic Glimpse of Rapid City. Rapid City Area Chamber of Commerce. 2008-10-06.
  128. Web site: Annual Estimates of the Population of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas: 2000-2007. CSV. 2007 Population Estimates. United States Census Bureau, Population Division. 2008-07-16.
  129. Web site: South Dakota. National Atlas. 2009-08-07.
  130. Hasselstrom, p. 202.
  131. Web site: US Newspaper - Search Results (South Dakota). Audit Bureau of Circulation. 2008-12-13.
  132. Web site: Tim Giago. South Dakota Hall of Fame. 2008-12-13.
  133. Web site: 2007. U.S. Television Stations in South Dakota. Global Computing. 2008-12-13.
  134. Web site: 2005-6. Nielson Media Research Local Universe Estimates (US). Nielson Media. 2008-12-13.
  135. Web site: Dave Dedrick. National Television Academy (Upper Midwest Chapter). 2008-12-13.
  136. Web site: Tom Brokaw. South Dakota Hall of Fame. 2008-12-13.
  137. Web site: Allen Neuharth. South Dakota Hall of Fame. 2008-12-13.
  138. Web site: Robert (Bob) Barker. South Dakota Hall of Fame. 2008-12-13.
  139. Web site: Pat O'Brien. South Dakota Hall of Fame. 2008-12-13.
  140. Web site: Mary Hart. South Dakota Hall of Fame. 2008-12-13.
  141. Web site: Student Demographics. South Dakota Department of Education. 2007-11-26.
  142. Web site: School System By Type (2006-07). South Dakota Department of Education. 2007-11-26.
  143. Web site: Schools & Personnel. South Dakota Department of Education. 2007-11-26.
  144. Web site: Number of Schools (most recent) (per capita). 2007-11-26.
  145. Web site: South Dakota Graduation Rate. South Dakota Department of Education. 2007-11-26.
  146. Web site: ACT Average Composite Score South Dakota vs. National. South Dakota Department of Education. 2007-11-26.
  147. Web site: Teachers Take "Pay Cut" As Inflation Outpaces Salaries. National Education Association. 2007-11-26.
  148. Web site: Doing Business in South Dakota (Public Universities). Governor's Office of Economic Development. 2007-11-26.
  149. Web site: About Augustana - City of Sioux Falls. Augustana College. 2008-12-21.
  150. Web site: Rapid City Rush Hockey. Rapid City Visitors & Convention Bureau. 2008-12-21.
  151. Web site: SDSU approved for Division I membership. South Dakota State University. 2008-12-21.
  152. Web site: South Dakota leaves North Central Conference for D-I. ESPN. 2008-12-21.
  153. Sun, Rebecca. Catching up with Billy Mills Sports Illustrated. July 28, 2008. (accessed December 21, 2008)
  154. Web site: Adam Vinatieri. New England Patriots. 2008-12-21.
  155. Web site: Economic Importance of Fishing. South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks. 2008-12-21.
  156. Web site: Economic Importance of Hunting. South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks. 2008-12-21.
  157. Web site: How many people hunt and fish in South Dakota?. South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks. 2008-12-21.
  158. Web site: Fishing in South Dakota - Great Lakes. South Dakota Office of Tourism. 2008-12-21.
  159. Web site: Fishing in South Dakota - Black Hills Fishing. South Dakota Office of Tourism. 2008-12-21.
  160. Web site: Biking in South Dakota. South Dakota Office of Tourism. 2008-12-21.
  161. Web site: Course Info. Mount Rushmore Marathon. 2008-12-21.
  162. Web site: 2008 TDK Route Maps. Tour de Kota. 2008-12-21.
  163. Web site: Signs and Symbols of South Dakota. State of South Dakota. 2008-01-03.