State in north-central USA, a Great Plains state, bordered to the north by North Dakota, to the west by Montana and Wyoming, to the south by Nebraska, and to the east by Minnesota and Iowa; area 196,541 sq km/75,885 sq mi; population (2010) 814,180; capital Pierre. South Dakota was formerly known as the Coyote State due to the abundance of coyotes that roam the prairies, but its official nickname is now the Mount Rushmore State because of the famous mountain sculpture, Mount Rushmore, which is the state's biggest tourist attraction. South Dakota is primarily a rural state, bisected by the Missouri River, with rolling hills and flat plains to the east and rocky uplifts to the west. Thousands of buffalo once roamed the prairies and grassland of the state. Tourism is key to the state economy, second only to livestock and grain production in terms of economic importance. Other cities include Sioux Falls, Rapid City, and Aberdeen. The influence of the Sioux tribe, both historically and culturally, is important to South Dakota. Colourful historical figures such as Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Sitting Bull, and George Custer contribute to South Dakota's legendary Wild West status. South Dakota was admitted to the Union in 1889 as the 40th US state.
Physical South Dakota is the 17th largest state in the USA, and is roughly rectangular, about 610 sq km/380 mi long and 340 sq km/210 mi wide. Big Stone Lake, on the eastern border, is about 300 m/1,000 ft above sea level, and is the state's lowest point. The highest point in the state is Harney Peak (2,209 m/7,242 ft) in the Black Hills.
The state is roughly divided into four geological regions: the Drift Prairie, the Dissected Till Plains, the Great Plains, and the Black Hills.
The Drift Prairie covers most of the eastern part of the state and is characterized by low hills and glacial lakes. Known as the Coteau des Prairies (Prairie Hills) by early French traders, it is bordered by the James River basin on the west and the Minnesota River Valley on the east. The Dissected Till Plains in the southeastern section of the state contain small hills and streams.
The Great Plains cover two-thirds of South Dakota. The land begins to rise from the east and has steep, flat-topped hills called buttes rising up from the plains. Between the White and the Cheyenne rivers, are the Badlands, characterized by deeply eroded clay gullies.
The Black Hills mountain system is an isolated eastern outlier of the Rocky Mountains, covered with heavy forests of pine and spruce. The hills are mineral-rich, with deposits of gold, silver, copper, and lead, and are home to Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse memorial, and Wind Cave and Custer national parks.
The state is drained by the Missouri and Columbia rivers and their branches. Other principal rivers include the James and the Big Sioux to the east, and the Cheyenne, the Belle Fourche, the Moreau, the Grand River, and the White River to the west.
South Dakota has a continental climate. Summers are hot, sunny, and often cloudless, but winter can be very cold, with blizzards sweeping across the plains and hillsides. The average annual rainfall is low, declining from east to west.
Animals indigenous to the area include antelope, deer, elk, beaver, bobcat, and porcupine in the Black Hills, and coyotes, jackrabbits, and prairie dogs around the rest of the state. Bald and golden eagles can also be found in the Badlands and Missouri Valley regions. Bison can be seen in Custer State Park.
Features Black Hills National Forest in western South Dakota contains rugged rock formations, canyons, grassland parks, streams, deep lakes, and caves. The Sioux American Indians believe the mountains to have physical and spiritual regenerative powers. Geological formations in the Black Hills region include large outcrops of granite and mica schist.
Badlands National Park, located in southwestern South Dakota, is the world's richest Oligocene epoch fossil bed, between 23 and 35 million years old. The evolution of mammal species such as the horse, sheep, rhinoceros, and pig are studied here amid the eroded buttes, spires, and grasslands of the area. The black-footed ferret, formerly the most endangered land mammal in North America, has been reintroduced to the Badlands Wilderness area.
Wind Cave National Park features one of the world's longest and most complex caves, and almost 115 sq km/44 sq mi of mixed-grass prairie and ponderosa pine forest. Jewel Cave National Monument in Custer is one of the longest surveyed caves in the world.
The Corn Palace, an arena and exhibition space, was established in Mitchell in 1892 to demonstrate the fertility of the South Dakota soil. Murals requiring thousands of bushels of corn, grain, grasses, oats, grass varieties, rye, straw, and wheat are created by artists and mounted each year as a tribute to the agricultural heritage of South Dakota.
The city of Deadwood is where the legendary Wild Bill Hickok was killed in 1876.
Mount Rushmore, the famous huge sculpture of US presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt, was carved to memorialize the country's first 150 years of history. From 1927 to 1941, the US sculptor Gutzon Borglum and 400 workers sculpted the 15–20 m-/50–70 ft-high busts of the presidents. At the request of the Indian peoples, a memorial to Crazy Horse is carved in granite near Custer.
The Verendrye Monument commemorates the spot where French-Canadian explorers Louis-Joseph and François La Verendrye in 1743 buried an inscribed lead tablet on a bluff overlooking present-day Fort Pierre and claimed the territory for France.
Culture Around 8.8% of South Dakota's population are American Indian (2010). The remaining population includes Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, Dutch, Irish, Germans, Mennonites, Hutterites, Czechs, English, Welsh, and others. South Dakota is still developing a state identity, challenged by a combination of climate, location, and investment.
In South Dakota's early days, residents were entertained by travelling music shows or dramas. The schoolhouse was a social centre in addition to being a source of learning. Several writers brought the state to life in their works, including Norwegian-born Ole E Rölvaag, author of Giants in the Earth (1927). Perhaps best known are Laura Ingalls Wilder'sLittle House on the Prairie books, tales of the pioneer period on the Midwestern frontier. Her novel Little Town on the Prairie (1941) details her life in De Smet, now home of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society. Native-born artist Harvey Dunn was famous for depicting pioneer life, while Yankton Sioux Oscar Howe incorporated into his artworks the motifs and images of his native culture. Traditional Indian crafts generate significant income, particularly in tourist areas.
The State Historical Society has overall operating responsibility for local museums such as Robinson Museum in Pierre, W H Over Museum in Vermillion, Agricultural Heritage Museum in Brookings, and Smith-Zimmerman State Museum in Madison. The South Dakota State Archaeological Research Center is located in Rapid City, and the prehistoric Indian village, with its Boehnen Memorial Museum, is located in Mitchell.
Notable among the summer theatres is the Black Hills Playhouse, which has operated in Custer State Park since 1946, and the Black Hills Passion Play, performed every summer at Spearfish since 1939. The musical arts are represented by a number of symphony orchestras. Ethnic festivals include Nordland Fest, Czech Days, and numerous American Indian powwows.
South Dakota's institutes of higher education include Augustana College at Sioux Falls; Northern State University at Aberdeen; the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology situated in Rapid City; South Dakota State University at Brookings; and the University of South Dakota located in Vermillion, which is home to the Shrine to Music Museum.
GovernmentSouth Dakota's state constitution The state is governed under its 1889 constitution, which has undergone numerous amendments.
Structure of state government The state legislature is bicameral (two chamber), consisting of a Senate with 35 senators and a House of Representatives, with 70 members, all elected for two-year terms from 35 legislative districts. The legislature meets each year in January for a 30-day session.
The state sends one representative and two senators to the US Congress, and has three electoral votes in presidential elections. The Republican party dominates state politics and South Dakota has not favoured a Democratic party US presidential nominee since 1964.
A governor, elected to a four-year term and allowed to serve no more than two terms in a row, heads the executive branch. Republican Dennis Daugaard took the governorship in January 2011. Other elected officials to the executive branch include a lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state auditor, attorney general, treasurer, and heads of the public utilities commission, and school and public lands commissions.
The state constitution provides for a centralized court structure known as the unified judicial system. It consists of a Supreme Court, circuit courts of general jurisdiction, and magistrate courts of limited original jurisdiction. The Supreme Court, the state's highest court, consists of a chief justice and four associate justices who are appointed to the office from five appointment districts by the governor.
At the local level, South Dakota is broken down into 66 counties, 310 towns and cities, and 916 townships. Special districts are designated areas for conservation and irrigation concerns.
The Sioux reservations elect their own tribal council that governs the affairs of their people and represents them at a national level.
Economy Since the end of the fur-trade era, agriculture, tourism, mining, and food manufacturing have become the mainstays of South Dakota's economy. Large cattle and sheep ranches occupy two-thirds of the land, and livestock and livestock products provide a major share of the state revenue. Like many nearby states, South Dakota's chief cash crops are corn, soybeans, oats, barley sorghum, and wheat. The state is a leading producer of flaxseed, sunflower seed, hay, and rye.
Meat packing and food processing are the major manufacturing industries, though the state has diversified into computers and electronics, particularly in Sioux Falls and Rapid City, and has a thriving durable goods industry. Mining continues to be important to South Dakota. Minerals excavated include beryllium, bentonite, granite, gold, silver, and uranium. Finance, insurance, and real estate are the main service sector industries.
Dams at Oahe, Big Bend, Fort Randall, and Gavins Point on the Missouri River are major sources of hydroelectric power, most of which is exported to consumers outside the state. Tourism and related services provide a steady stream of income for the state, most of which is derived from Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills area.
HistoryIndigenous people South Dakota is home to the Sioux, Arikara, and Mandan, among other indigenous peoples. The earliest recorded inhabitants of the area were the Sioux and Chippewa tribes. Prior to the influx of pioneers, the Chippewa had pushed the Sioux towards the plains. By the late 18th century, the aggressive Sioux tribe had driven out the Arikara from the region.
Fur trade French-Canadians Louis-Joseph and François La Verendrye first explored the territory in 1743 and claimed it for France. Under the Treaty of Paris, 1763, South Dakota, then part of the Louisiana Territory, came into the possession of Spain, but reverted to France in 1800. Napoleon Bonaparte sold it to the USA as part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark explored the region 1804–06. They met with the Teton Sioux in the Pierre area, visited three Arikara villages near Mobridge, and noted the plentiful beaver population, which ushered in an era of intense fur trapping. British and US fur companies pioneered the settlement of the region, dotting riverbanks with their outposts and trading stations. Trappers used the Missouri to export furs back to St Louis, then the hub of the US fur trade. The first US colonial settlement was at Fort Pierre, founded in 1817 and the oldest continuously occupied white settlement in South Dakota.
Early settlement By 1856, two companies were established at Sioux Falls and by 1859, outposts at Vermillion, Yankton, and Bon Homme were thriving. In 1858, Yankton Sioux signed a treaty ceding most of eastern South Dakota to the USA, opening up farmland for settlement. A provisional government was established, but not recognized by the national government. In 1861 the Dakota Territory was established between the Big Sioux and Missouri rivers and included present-day states South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, and most of Wyoming. In 1872, the Dakota Southern Railroad opened between Vermillion and Sioux City, Iowa.
Conflict The late 19th century was marked by conflict between the American Indian tribes and white settlers. In the early 1870s, a gold rush pulled more non-natives into the western Dakota Territory. Federal treaties protecting the rights of the native tribes were ignored. A military expedition led by George Custer in 1874 confirmed rumours of gold in the Black Hills and brought thousands of bounty hunters to the area. The Sioux declared war on the white intruders and defeated Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. In 1877, a treaty was signed giving the Black Hills to the USA and returning Indians to their reservations.
Statehood The ‘Great Dakota Boom’ occurred between 1878 and 1887, when the state's population swelled from 80,000 to 325,000. By 1883, the Dakota Territory had been reduced to what is now North and South Dakota. The growth of the population in the north led to the territorial capital being shifted from Yankton to Bismarck. Southern residents called to split the territory at the 46th parallel, though the north and Congress opposed the idea. Constitutional conventions were held in 1883, and then again in 1885 when the state of Dakota was established. In 1889, Congress approved dual statehood based on a division south of the 46th parallel, thus accepting both the states of North and South Dakota into the union at the same time.
The same year, the Great Sioux Agreement created six reservations for Teton and Yankton Sioux, opening up more than 35,000 sq km/14,000 sq mi of land to white immigrants. Between 1889 and 1897, severe drought hit the area. Coupled with a depressed national economy in the early and mid-1890s, the period became known as the ‘Great Dakota Bust’, discouraging newcomers from settling there. By 1890, the Sioux were on the brink of starvation, fenced in by boundaries imposed by the US government. Non-Indian settlers felt threatened and demanded protection from the US Army, culminating in the massacre of hundreds of American Indians at Wounded Knee, considered the final conquest of the Sioux.
Railroads By the turn of the 20th century, the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St Paul Railroad had reached Evarts, which became a major shipping terminal for cattle from western South Dakota. By 1907, two rail links to Rapid City from eastern points were completed, making it the state centre for trade and commerce. Mining and cattle-raising became important to the area once the railway made it possible to export goods across state lines.
Post-war South Dakota South Dakota was hard hit by the Great Depression, when drought and dust severely damaged agricultural productivity. New Deal programmes such as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) provided many interim jobs. The state also contributed to the World War II effort, sending military units to Europe, Africa, and the Pacific. The battleship USS South Dakota, launched in 1941, became one of the most decorated US ships of the war.
In 1952 a major flood on the Missouri River inundated Pierre and caused damage throughout South Dakota. The severity of the flood sparked dam construction that eventually contributed to electric power production, recreation, flood control, navigation, irrigation, public water supplies, and fish and wildlife development in the state.
The plight of the American Indians was brought to national attention when a group of militant American Indians occupied a courthouse at Wounded Knee in 1973, resulting in a gun battle with federal marshals.
Contemporary South Dakota The state faced severe economic pressure in the 1980s when the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad and the Milwaukee pulled investment out of the area and drought hit the state again. In 1989, gambling was introduced in Deadwood to encourage economic development. The state shifted its economic focus towards service, finance, and trade industries in the 1990s, which resulted in significant economic growth and a further shift from rural to urban living. Tourism continues to be one of the state's main sources of income.
Famous peoplesport Billy Mills (1938– ), athlete
the arts L Frank Baum (1856–1919), writer; Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867–1957), children's novelist and pioneer; Ole E Rölvaag (1876–1931), novelist; Korczak Ziolkowski (1908–1992), sculptor of the Crazy Horse mountain carving; Oscar Howe (1915–1983), painter; Jess Thomas (1927–1993), tenor singer; Tom Brokaw (1940– ), television journalist
science Julia Gardner (1882–1960), geologist and palaeontologist; Ernest O Lawrence (1901–1958), Nobel Prize-winning physicist
society and educationCalamity Jane (c. 1852–1903), Wild West heroine; Black Elk (1863–1950), Sioux religious leader; Russell Means (1939–2012), Sioux activist
economics Theodore Schultz (1902–1992), Nobel Prize-winning agricultural economist
politics and lawSitting Bull (c. 1834–1890), Sioux chief; Crazy Horse (1849–1877), Sioux chief; Hubert H Humphrey (1911–1978), vice president of the USA; George McGovern (1922–2012), politician; Tom Daschle (1947– ), US senator.
South Dakota – flag
State in the N central USA, on the Great Plains . The capital is Pierre ; the largest cities are Sioux Falls and Rapid City. The land rises...
A part of hell with the fires burnt out. —George Armstrong Custer, speaking of the Bad Lands in southwestern South Dakota, c....
One of the Plains states in N central USA. The Missouri River separates the arid Badlands, the Black Hills, and the Great Plains in the W from...