an invitation

This profile is an invitation for you to join us in an adventure of faith which is the Diocese of South Dakota. It is but a snapshot of the surprising blend of contrasts and similarities that will unfold for you if you are called to become our eleventh bishop. We are a large diocese of small churches with a wide variety of contrasting perspectives. A mostly Native American diocese, our faith lives among rural and city dwellers, persons living on and off reservations, ranchers living West River and farmers living East River. South Dakota has some of the poorest counties in the nation, so we are a missionary diocese receiving roughly half our funding from the Episcopal Church. These and other contrasts make up a rich tapestry of faith that calls us “to restore all people to a unity with God and each other in Christ through the ministry of all.” We see ourselves as a “sacred circle gathered around Jesus in prayer, loving and serving God and our neighbor in Jesus’ name.” If this profile sparks your sense of adventure, we hope you will consider if you are being called to live and serve among us in South Dakota as our bishop.


Prayer for our Next Bishop

Almighty God, giver of every good gift: look graciously on your Church, on all those who are discerning a potential call, and on the people of God in this diocese; and so guide the minds and hearts of those who shall choose the eleventh Bishop of the Diocese of South Dakota, that we may receive a faithful pastor, who will care for our people and equip us for our ministries; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Hopes for our New Bishop

We are looking for a bishop who will lead the Diocese by example, especially by loving, caring for and respecting all of God’s people as a faithful and faith-filled pastor. Our bishop must be able to show the same care and regard for the smallest preaching station as the largest parish; the same regard for the poor as the wealthy; the same regard for the meek as the powerful. Our bishop must be a good listener who empowers through collaboration and delegation. It makes a huge difference when the bishop chooses to serve, has an openness, and an accessibility to all.

Our bishop represents to us a more global spiritual experience in the church that lives outside of our specific locations. We expect the bishop’s words to move us and teach us new things or new ways of thinking that are good for our souls! When he or she communicates well, leads, loves, and keeps in touch with the congregations, the bishop can open a very wide spiritual door to all. The spiritual witness of our bishop can lead us to dig deeper and go further in our search to be who God has created us to be.

We are seeking someone who has served in a multi-cultural setting and understands the needs and concerns of the Native and non-Native communities. Our bishop must be comfortable moving in and out of Lakota/Dakota, Anglo, and Sudanese cultures, have experience working with rural congregations, and be willing to drive long distances on a regular basis. This person may be a good financial manager and administrator, but more importantly, a strong spiritual leader with a vision for ministry. Our bishop must be rooted in theological and scriptural study and have a daily practice of prayer and weekly community worship.

Finally, we seek a strong leader with a vision and the ability to communicate well. We need an advocate for South Dakota in the wider church, especially in the House of Bishops. We look to our bishop to set an example of personal stewardship and model good self-care and boundaries, so that she or he is not swallowed up by the demands of the church. The bishop will need a commitment to managing his or her life to remain physically and spiritually healthy; a good sense of humor; and to be approachable and open to new ideas. We desire a humble leader, not seeking power, riches, or prestige, but focused on serving God and God’s people. Our bishop must actively address congregational concerns and remain calm in the midst of conflict. We are looking for someone whose faith in Christ exudes an infectious joy for others and God’s good creation. Vulnerability and a willingness to be loved and cared for by God’s people are important attributes for our next bishop.

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A Brief History of the Episcopal Diocese of South Dakota

Our Diocese has a unique history in that the Native American ministry of the Episcopal Church here began with the Minnesota Uprising of 1862. After years of government treachery and deceit, many Dakota people were driven out from their homeland. Many lives were lost, and despite the fact that Christians among the Dakota saved the lives of the Missionaries and some settlers, surviving Native Americans were imprisoned and later expelled to the Dakota Territory.

Bishop William Hobart Hare

Bishop William Hobart Hare

In 1868, the U.S. Government created the Ft. Laramie Treaty which, among other things, set aside for the Great Sioux Nation half of present-day South Dakota extending into North Dakota and Nebraska. The buffalo roamed in the South Dakota plains until 1870. The Lakota followed the buffalo herds which provided the First Peoples food, clothing, and shelter. Approximately 30 million buffalo were killed as a government decision for land. In 1874, the government ordered a military expedition into the sacred, Lakota-owned Black Hills by Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer; gold was discovered and the great land grab began. Bishop William Hobart Hare, the first Missionary Bishop of Niobrara, protested the government’s taking the Black Hills away from the Lakota, serving as an advocate for his people.

Episcopal priest Samuel Hinman, who had served the Dakota people in Minnesota for three years, accompanied them to the Dakota Territory. The chaos of the Civil War, however, prevented the establishment of a new jurisdiction until 1871, when the Missionary District of Niobrara was established in the Dakotas. In 1872 the House of Bishops elected the Reverend William Hobart Hare as the first Missionary Bishop of Niobrara and he was consecrated in 1873. Thus, he began his ministry of thirty-two years.

On November 2, 1889, President Benjamin Harrison signed the declaration of statehood for South Dakota.

Bishop Hare designed the Niobrara Cross, which was given to each new Native American Christian bearing the inscription “that they may have life.” A Niobrara Cross is given to each new confirmand and clergy person in the Diocese.

The Niobrara Cross

The Niobrara Cross

During these times, the government allowed only missionaries to go into Native American lands. The missionaries failed to recognize a naturally spiritual people as they imposed Christianity. We still feel the effects, both positive and negative. Bishop Hare wasn’t sure how to start his ministry in Chief Red Cloud’s and Chief Sitting Bull’s agencies, but it is noted that on the Pine Ridge Reservation alone, he baptized 100 persons, a great achievement.

One of the most important events of the missionary work of The Episcopal Church in the United States is the annual meeting in South Dakota known as the Niobrara Convocation, which was first held in 1870 at present-day Santee, Nebraska, then a town in the Dakota Territory along the Missouri River. The Dakota/Lakota/Nakota people managed, in their own fashion, to fit the values of their old traditions and rituals into Christianity. The Niobrara Convocation served the same social function as the Sundance when friends and relatives came together in the summer from all directions. The Convocation custom of the Native Americans from different reservations camping together was not unlike the traditional spots held in the camp circle by the various tribes.

The Niobrara Convocation grew to be a loved and much looked-forward-to annual event in South Dakota. Non-Native Episcopalians and persons from other denominations, as well as government officials and even U.S. President Calvin Coolidge visited. The gathering was, and still is, frequently honored by visitations from presiding bishops, including current Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, as well as regular attendance from bishops of the Anglican Communion.

Only three times did the Niobrara Convocation not convene: 1876 because of Bishop Hare’s poor health; 1901 because of the danger of smallpox contagion; and 1945 because of WWII conditions when gas and tire rationing and enforced lower speed limits made travel difficult.

In 1971, the Missionary District of Niobrara became the Diocese of South Dakota with the Rt. Rev. Walter Jones as bishop. We have been served by Bishops William Hare, Frederick Johnson, George Biller, Jr., Hugh Burleson, W. Blair Roberts, Conrad Gesner, Walter Jones, Harold Jones (Bishop Suffragan, the first Native bishop in the United States), Craig Anderson, Creighton Robertson, and John Tarrant.

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Our Congregations

Get to know our congregations better

The Diocese of South Dakota encompasses the entire state and is made up of seventy-nine congregations. Fifty-four are primarily Native American in membership and are widely spread across our nine reservations. Twenty-five are found in towns and cities across the state and are both Native and non-Native in their makeup. Our fastest growing church is located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and is a Sudanese Congregation, with worship in the Dinka language, led by a Sudanese priest, deacon and lay readers, which has the largest Sunday School in the Diocese.

The average Sunday attendance of our churches varies greatly, ranging from less than 10 to over 170, with the larger congregations being found in the population centers of Sioux Falls on the far east side of the state and Rapid City on the far west side. As is true in most parts of our nation, we are experiencing a significant decline in population of small towns and rural areas. Some churches on the reservations and in small towns have closed over the years due to the people who once lived nearby having moved away to seek employment or other attractions and benefits, such as medical care, offered in larger towns or cities.

A serious challenge that most of our congregations face is attracting the next generation of leaders whom our elders would like to be able to train and support to help the church continue to be a relevant and life changing part of the community where they live.

Despite the difficulty in getting our youth to attend church, youth ministries and activities continue to be developed and put into place, such as traditional Sunday schools, Wednesday schools, Vacation Bible School, middle school and high school youth groups and our Diocesan summer camp, Thunderhead Episcopal Center, that continues to grow every summer. These ministries among our youth are vitally important. An ever-increasing number of deaths have been occurring in the Diocese, especially among the youth and young adults on our reservations who have lost hope and take their own lives or suffer violent and senseless deaths. It is not uncommon for our mission clergy to officiate forty to sixty funerals annually. In most cases, two-thirds of those funerals are for people under the age of fifty.

If we had to choose one word to describe the Diocese of South Dakota, it would be “presence.” We are present in the good times, and we are present in the hard times. We are present when we want to be, and we are present even when we are so tired and discouraged that we would rather be anywhere else. But we are still present. For helpful insights, please read “Hope on the Ground in The Living Church, an interview with Bishop John Tarrant.

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We are People of the Baptismal Covenant

Will you proclaim, by word and example, the Good News of God in Christ?

A wide variety of ministries are happening across our Diocese. In our Baptismal Covenant, we are called to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself,” and to “strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.”

Ecumenical Relationships

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We have Youth Ministries on the Pine Ridge Reservation, where the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) have hired a full-time youth worker with support from our Episcopal Church block grant. We have two ELCA pastors serving Episcopal congregations at the present time. Our 2018 Diocesan Convention is being held at a Methodist church. Kids Alive is a youth program attended by both Lutherans and Episcopalians.


Our congregations are committed to feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the ill, and visiting the imprisoned. (Matthew 25:34-36)

Spiritual Hunger – Education

We have programs like Sunday and Wednesday schools, the God Loves Our Rosebud Youth (GLORY) program on the Rosebud Mission, Vacation Bible School, Education for Ministry (EFM), Young Life on the Standing Rock and Rosebud Reservations, Brotherhood of St. Andrew, Brotherhood of Christian Unity (BCU), Daughters of the King, and Bible studies.

Thunderhead Episcopal Center (TEC)

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Thunderhead Episcopal Center

Thunderhead Episcopal Center

Set in the Northern Black Hills, this camping ministry for youth of the Diocese began in the 1960s as an initiative of the Diocesan youth. An early brochure for the camp said, “The camp was purchased and set up with the principle in mind that in camping, we come closer to nature and thereby discover the mighty works of God.” Every year, the camp, which welcomes youth grades 5-12, works to help campers love one another, while challenging them to look for God in our everyday lives and the world around us. Furthermore, South Dakota offers its camping ministry to anyone, and the Diocese of Wyoming sends 20-30 campers to Thunderhead each summer.

TEC is where many of our Diocesan youth receive their primary Christian education and formation. The young adult component of TEC as counselors develops leaders and is as important as the young campers themselves.

TEC is a primary ministry of the Diocese and is the largest ministry program of the Diocese. Our next bishop should be aware of the commitment required in sustaining TEC in financial and spiritual terms. The financial commitment is significant. Sixty percent of campers in 2018 were fully subsidized by Diocesan scholarships. All campers are at least partially subsidized as the actual cost per camper is not feasible to charge. The only way TEC survives is with continued Diocesan commitment.

In recent years, use of the camp has expanded to include a wide variety of ministerial opportunities including Summer Seminary, adult retreats, meetings, and family gatherings. It is a staple of Province VI.

Native Ministries

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A block grant, received from the Episcopal Church, is used entirely for Native Ministries across the Diocese. Youth programs have been developed and put into action on the Rosebud, Standing Rock, Pine Ridge Reservations. The work on the Standing Rock is in concert with the Diocese of North Dakota, as the Standing Rock Reservation connects our two Dioceses. Youth ministers serve the Standing Rock in both dioceses. In addition to providing events and activities, these programs have helped their respective communities better address the issues of suicide, drug abuse, school drop-outs, gang activity, and poverty.

The officers of the Niobrara Council coordinate Niobrara Convocation and assist the bishop in administering the ministries of our mission churches, which are a part of the Niobrara Deanery.

In early 2016, the world stood with our Native American siblings to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. Our Diocesan and Episcopal Church leadership joined in protest against the risk being posed to sacred land and water.

Niobrara School for Ministry (NSM)

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The Niobrara School for Ministry provides theological and ministerial education and formation for those seeking training for ministry as deacons or priests in their local communities. Interested lay persons, seeking to further their education and deepen their spiritual life and gain practical skills for ministry, are encouraged and welcomed to take part. The NSM course of study is overseen by mentors, usually clergy. There are three to five ministry weekends held throughout the year at various locations around the Diocese. Summer Seminary, a week-long course of study, is held every year, covering topics such as liturgy, scripture, preaching, and theology. Additionally, Niobrara School for Ministry works with Diocese of South Dakota communications and social media to offer webinars and short digital education videos for use in the Diocese and the larger church.

Creation Care Network

This is a committed network of a dozen or so congregations in the Diocese, whose goal is to have a “communion” of Creation Care events through liturgy, education, reflection and activities. We recognize we are intimately connected with Mother Earth.

Episcopal Church Women (ECW)

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ECW has initiated a three-year rotating cycle of stewardship of giving to the Diocese, the Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion. ECW of the Diocese and of the Niobrara mission offers annual scholarships for continuing education to women in the Diocese.

St. Mary’s Leadership Development Board

The board offers college scholarships to men and women of any age from our diocese. The board recently awarded a $6,000 grant to TEC for camp scholarships.

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Diocesan Staff

Get to know our staff better

Randy BarnhardtDiocesan Financial Officer

Marlys FratzkeBishop’s Administrative Assistant, Editor of ChurchNews

The Reverend Portia CorbinMissioner for Camping & Retreat Ministry

Dr. Chris CorbinMissioner for Transition and Leadership Ministries

The Reverend Tim FountainMissioner for Support; Safeguarding God’s Children Coordinator

Pat LeBeauMissioner for Property

While Calvary Cathedral is located in the state’s largest populated city, Sioux Falls, the bishop’s office is located in the geographic center of the state, Pierre (locally pronounced as ‘peer’). With the diocesan office accessible to all parts of our large territory, the bishop can often travel to a parish and return home in the same day. Similarly, Pierre’s centrality grants equal distribution of the travel burden to clergy and ministry participants wishing to meet at the diocesan office.

The fact that staff members reside and work across the state is an asset to our ministry throughout the Diocese. Similar to the model of our national church, highly qualified staff members offer representation for the bishop’s office in moments of crisis and for on-site planning purposes. Forward-thinking staff members envision an opportunity for the Diocese of South Dakota to be a leader in demonstrating the effectiveness of this non-traditional model of church management and support. Staff collaboration is key to its success.

Some of the clergy of the Diocese at the 2018 Niobrara Convocation

Some of the clergy of the Diocese at the 2018 Niobrara Convocation


Clergy in South Dakota are deeply committed to God and to serving God’s people. Mission clergy endure the challenges of long hours on back roads in hazardous weather and poor road conditions. The clergy are supportive of each other, reaching out to help one another and work with our bishop to care for the people. They respect and appreciate one another. Due to the sparsely populated nature of the state and long distances between congregations, our clergy are often isolated. They greatly value those occasions when they can come together for a time of sharing struggles, joys and some good-natured teasing. Our “theological temperature” varies, depending on the particular church and community, from traditional to progressive to multi-cultural. We continue to be actively engaged in our commitment to combat racism, which continues to be a reality for many of our people. Non-mission clergy provide pastoral care to all Episcopalians in city-centered health care facilities, participate in Niobrara Convocation, and lead their congregations in strong financial support of diocesan endeavors.

In the Diocese, we have a total of fifteen active deacons and thirty-eight active priests, serving as rectors or vicars of individual parishes, or as superintending presbyters of multiple congregations (nine of whom are retired but continue to serve). Our nine reservations are served by seventeen priests and deacons and numerous Senior Catechists and lay readers, whose service is both legendary and priceless to the clergy and their communities.

There are twenty-five priests, full- or part-time, serving off the reservations, including three non-stipendiary priests serving mutual ministry congregations. Most of these clergy serve only one congregation.

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Diocesan Budget


Chapter of Calvary Cathedral Budget

The Chapter of Calvary Cathedral is the holding corporation of all properties utilized by The Diocese of South Dakota. The Chapter of Calvary Cathedral also owns title to the vehicles the Diocese uses as well as all diocesan endowments.

Because of that, all property expenses are budgeted through here, and monies withdrawn from the endowments for diocesan budget support is reflected in this budget.

The Chapter of Calvary Cathedral has nothing to do with Calvary Cathedral parish.


Bishop’s Compensation

Salary: $80,000.00*

Utilities (paid by Diocese): $5,000.00

Residence** provided (value for pension): $25,500.00 

Total compensation for pension: $110,500.00

*This compensation package represents a substantial increase from our current bishop’s compensation package to be more competitive with other bishops’ salaries, and we thank Bishop Tarrant for his years of missionary service.

**The residence has five bedrooms and 3 ½ baths. It has a two-car, heated garage. It is in a residential neighborhood just two miles from the Diocesan office with a walking/bike path between the two. The office is located across from T.F. Riggs High School, one block from the Oahe Family YMCA, Pierre’s Rawlins Municipal Library, and in sight of the State Capital.

The Bishop’s Residence

The Bishop’s Residence

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Bishop’s Benefits

Pension: $19,890.00

Insurance (family plan): $29,196.00

Employee share 15%: -$4,379.00

Total benefits: $44,707.00

Total package: $155,207.00

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Get to Know the State of South Dakota

This land was first inhabited by the Sioux Nation and later occupied by Europeans. It is the land of prairie grass, farms, ranches, glacial lakes, the Missouri River, bison, and the Black Hills.

Courtesy of the South Dakota Department of Tourism

Courtesy of the South Dakota Department of Tourism



Our economic base is agriculture. Farmers grow corn, soy beans, wheat, and sunflowers. We also have many ranchers that raise cattle, sheep, and hogs. The meat packing plants found throughout South Dakota employ a large immigrant population from Africa, Asia, Mexico and Central America.

Pheasant Hunting, courtesy of the South Dakota Department of Tourism

Pheasant Hunting, courtesy of the South Dakota Department of Tourism

Our big draw is tourism, which brings in $2 billion annually. People come from all over to hunt a variety of game, including deer and pheasant, or fish our many pristine rivers and creeks for trout, perch, and walleye. Worldwide visitors come to experience the monuments of Mt. Rushmore National Park and Crazy Horse Memorial located in the Black Hills. We have fun activities for all four seasons, such as rodeos, water skiing, kayaking, cycling and hiking in the summer and snow skiing, snow shoeing, snow mobiling, ice skating, and hockey to fill the winter months with outdoor excitement. The annual State Fair, Corn Palace in Mitchell, the Sioux Falls Jazz and Blues Festival plus other concerts in Sioux Falls and Rapid City provide diverse entertainment for the whole family. The Buffalo Roundup in Custer State Park involves 1,500 bison that are gathered to be sorted, vaccinated, and sold. This is to keep the herd healthy and draws tourists for the week-long event in September.

Hoop Dancer, courtesy of the South Dakota Department of Tourism

Hoop Dancer, courtesy of the South Dakota Department of Tourism

Summer here is known as powwow season. A powwow is a traditional Native American gathering. It is a celebration with drum groups, singers, dancing, traditional games, and fellowship. Many powwows are attended by people who are not Native American as a way to experience this culture.

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and the town of Deadwood are favorite tourist attractions for adults. The Sturgis Rally is a week-long event at the beginning of August, but people come and go for four weeks. Deadwood draws on the Western theme; it is also the town of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.

Snow skiing, snow shoeing, and snow mobiling are popular with locals and tourists.



What better way to get to know the people of our state than by eating the variety of food? Our state dessert is kuchen (koo-ken), which is a German pastry. Indian Tacos are a favorite meal for both Native and non-Native Americans. Indian Tacos have all the fixings of a typical taco, but are served on fry bread, which is our state bread. It is a flat bread that is fried in oil and can be used for Indian Tacos or eaten with some wojapi (wo-sha-pea). Wojapi is a traditional berry sauce made from choke cherries or buffalo berries. Lefse (lef-sah) is a Norwegian flat bread that is slightly grilled. It is coated with butter, jam, or jelly and sugar and then rolled like a crepe. Lastly, the pasties (pahss-tees) are meat pies that miners in the Black Hills ate for meals and are still enjoyed today.



South Dakota covers an area of 77,116 square miles, crossed by two major interstates and many bi-ways. I-29 runs north-south on the eastern side of the state for 252 miles from Nebraska to North Dakota. I-90 runs east-west for 412 miles through the state from Minnesota to Wyoming.

Dignity, courtesy of the South Dakota Department of Tourism

Dignity, courtesy of the South Dakota Department of Tourism

On I-90, you can stop at the Chamberlain rest area to meet Dignity, a fifty-foot tall stainless-steel sculpture of a Native American woman holding a beautiful star quilt that lets the sun through slits at the right time of day. She was built to honor the cultures of the Sioux people. The rest area also features an exhibition on Lewis & Clark complete with a replica of a keel boat.

Throughout the state, scenic bi-ways run along the Missouri River, Badlands, Black Hills, and the Wildlife Loop at Custer State Park. Driving the Loop, you will see herds of bison and whitetail deer. Do not be surprised if donkeys, the descendants of those left to the wild after the construction of Mt. Rushmore, come up to your car to greet you.

Bisected by the Missouri River, South Dakota has two distinct halves – East River and West River. The River also distinguishes Mountain Time from Central Time. East River is more populated, especially along I-29. The state’s largest town of Sioux Falls with 154,000 is located in the southeastern part of South Dakota. East River also has more farming and the glacial lakes. West River has a lot of ranching and rodeo. Our largest town in West River is Rapid City with a population of 75,000. The total population of South Dakota is 870,000.


Sioux Nation

Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial

We have Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota dialects who make up the Oyate (oh-yah-tay), the People. The Lakota are primarily located West River, the Nakota in the Southeast, and the Dakota East River. We have nine Indian reservations within the state. In the west, we have Standing Rock, Cheyenne River, Lower Brule, Rosebud, and Pine Ridge. In the east, we have Sisseton-Wahpeton (also called Lake Traversie), Flandreau, Crow Creek, and Yankton.

The land for the Oyate is a cultural and spiritual place. The Black Hills, known as Paha Sapa in Lakota, are very sacred. In the Southern Black Hills, the Crazy Horse monument is being built in recognition of a great Lakota warrior and spiritual leader.


Authors and Artists

Publications by Authors in the Diocese

Famous painters of our state include Oscar Howe and Harvey Dunn. Oscar Howe (an Episcopalian) was a Native American painter from the Crow Creek Reservation. He is well-known for the way he depicted his people and the life they led. Harvey Dunn was from Brookings and his famous paintings depict the prairie and the homesteaders.

Famous authors include Kathleen Norris, Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve (snay-vee), Laura Ingalls Wilder, Paul Goble, Ella Deloria, and L. Frank Baum. Kathleen Norris, whose titles include DakotaThe Cloister Walk, and Amazing Grace, is originally from South Dakota, as is retired broadcaster and best-selling author of The Greatest Generation,Tom BrokawLocally celebrated author Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve (an Episcopalian) is from the Rosebud Reservation and she has written stories about growing up in a family that was both traditional and Christian. She has also written Lakota stories about people like Iktomi (ick-toe-may), the trickster. She has also written an extensive history of the diocese in the book That They May Have Life: The Episcopal Church in South Dakota 1859-1976. Laura Ingalls Wilder hailed from De Smet and is famous for her Little House on the Prairie series that talks about her family being homesteaders. L. Frank Baum lived in Aberdeen and is known for his still-popular Wizard of Oz stories.

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