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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 Dakota, The Cloister Walk, and Amazing Grace, is originally from South Dakota, as is retired broadcaster and best-selling author of The Greatest Generation,Tom Brokaw. Locally 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.