South Dakota Facts

… The legacy is the hard work of those generations who were settling South Dakota’s prairies, built their sod houses broke the soils, fought the grasshoppers, drought, and penny-a-pound prices for their products…

… This is a legacy that we all carry with us, also those who leave. All of this great work has been producing what may be considered as the world’s largest collection of strong and powerful hands…

Dakota is the land where our continent’s Great Lakes were formed on this barren prairie land, and there is no place in the world where more gold was produced than at South Dakota’s Homestake Mine.

This is the land where visitors come by the thousands to admire the world-famous ‘rock stars’, the presidential faces carved in the rock of Mount Rushmore Memorial.

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South Dakota’s history reads like an adventure tale. It is filled with courageous fur trappers, fierce battles between Indians and settlers, and boasts colorful characters such as General George A. Custer, Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickock, and Sitting Bull.

South Dakota is becoming an increasingly important center of the financial world and other service-related activities.

Quick Facts about South Dakota

– Harney Peak in the Black Hills is the highest point east of the Rockies.
– The state has the longest U.S. non-navigable river, the James River.
– The world’s biggest portrait busts at Mount Rushmore.
– South Dakota’s Homestake Mine holds the world record in gold production.
– The state leads the U.S. in bentonite clay production.

South Dakota brief history

The brothers Louis-Joseph and Francois La Wrendrye were the first Europeans to explore the region during their 1743 expedition and they placed two lead plates on a hill top overlooking the Missouri River claiming the area that we now know as South Dakota for the King of France. Jean Baptiste Trudeau later set up a trading company in 1794 at a location that now is Charles Mix County.

The great Lewis and Clark expedition stayed at a camp around Elk Point in 1804, on August 22nd, and Fort Pierre Chouteau (modern-day Pierre) was established in 1831 as the first European settlement in the region.

In that same year, the first steamboat (‘Puffing Canoe’) named the Yellowstone, was reaching Fort Pierre. Pierre Jean de Smet, a priest, was visiting the Black Hills area in 1848, and he received two bags of glittering powder from an Indian Chief. Pierre recognized the gift as gold but he didn’t tell anyone as he feared Indian rights.

In 1861, on March 2nd, the Dakota Territory was formed, and at the time of the Civil War, there was an uprising of the Santee Sioux, named the ‘War of the Outbreak’ which was settled in 1865 near the present-day city of Pierre.

Fort Sisseton, named after the Indians with that name, was founded in 1864 at, for those days, the incredible cost of two million dollars. George Armstrong Custer’s great military expedition came to the Black Hills region in 1874, and the party soon discovered gold.

As soon as a Chicago newspaper had carried the good news, the gold rush was on. Dead Tree Gulch (which later became Deadwood) housed some 25,000 gold adventurers on Indian lands, while on August 2nd, Wild Bill Hickock got shot here.

On exactly the same day as its northern neighbor North Dakota, on November 2nd, 1889, South Dakota became a state in the Union. President Harrison has never revealed which of the two states he named first.

During the next year, in 1890, famous Indian Chief Sitting Bull got killed by government action at a site that’s now Little Eagle. That same year, on December 28th, there was the tragic ‘Battle at Wounded Knee’. This was actually no battle at all as over 200 men, women, and children of the Sioux Tribe were just murdered by government troops.

In 1904, Pierre was chosen to be South Dakota’s capital and during World War I almost 33,000 South Dakota residents went into service. President Calvin Coolidge’s visit to the Black Hills caught the attention of the world. He dedicated the still unfinished Mount Rushmore Memorial on August 10th in 1927.

The worldwide Great Depression even became worse in the area due to a terrible drought that hit the region in the period 1933 – 1936. In 1933, the price of gold was on the rise again, and gold mining was returning to South Dakota’s Black Hills region, and in 1948, the state became America’s largest gold producer.

A noteworthy year is also 1973 when the Rapid City floods killed almost 250 individuals, and in that same year, Indians were occupying Wounded Knee as they wanted to remember and protest against the 1890 massacre of unarmed Sioux Indians.

In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the United States government must pay South Dakota’s Sioux Indians over 100 million dollars to compensate for seizing their lands in the period 1800 – 1900.