South Dakota

November 28, 2012 1:25 pm
South Dakota
It was August 10, 1927. president Calvin Coolidge waited beneath a huge, granite cliff in South Dakota. He watched as a 60-year-old man climbed to the top of the cliff. The man was Gutzon Borglum. He drilled some holes into the stone. The cliff was the face of Mount Rushmore, and Borglum had begun sculpting one of America’s most famous landmarks.
Facts About South Dakota
796,000 people
Rank among states in population
Major cities
Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Aberdeen
77,100 square miles
200,000 square kilometers
Rank among states in area
November 2, 1889, the 40th state
State nickname
The Mount Rushmore State
Name for residents
South Dakotans
State bird
Ring-Necked Pheasant
State flower
American Pasqueflower
State tree
Black Hills Spruce
South Dakota is nicknamed the Mount Rushmore State. Borglum and about 400 workers sculpted Mount Rushmore for 14 years. They carved the heads of U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt into the granite cliff. The heads are 60 feet (20 meters) tall. More than 2 million people visit Mount Rushmore every year.
Mount Rushmore is in the Black Hills in the western part of South Dakota. The Black Hills are a popular tourist spot. These pine-covered hills appear black from a distance, giving the area its name. High peaks of granite rock rise above the evergreen forests. These spiky peaks are called the Needles. The Black Hills area has long been sacred to Native Americans.
The Badlands National Park in southwestern South Dakota is another popular place to visit. Wind and water have carved the rocks in the Badlands into towers, gulches, and other interesting shapes. The bare, jagged rocks form a strange landscape. The Sioux people named this landscape the badlands. The Sioux also gave the state its name. The Dakota people are a branch of the Sioux.
Much of South Dakota is flat or rolling prairie. The Missouri River runs through the state, dividing it roughly in half. The eastern half is mostly flat. Low, rolling hills are in the western half, along with the Black Hills and Badlands. Farmers grow crops and raise livestock, especially beef cattle, in both parts of the state.
Laura Ingalls Wilder lived in De Smet, South Dakota. She wrote books for children about her family’s experiences on the prairie. The book Little Town on the Prairie tells about pioneer days in South Dakota. You can visit her house in De Smet.
Early settlers of South Dakota built a palace decorated all over with corn in 1892 in the town of Mitchell. They wanted to display the fertility of the state’s soil. Mitchell still has a corn palace. Murals made of corn decorate the outside of the building. New murals go up every year.
French Canadian explorers were probably the first white people to reach South Dakota. In the 1740s, they were looking for a water passage from the Great Lakes to the Pacific Ocean. They claimed the region for France.
In 1803, the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory, including South Dakota, from France. An expedition headed by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark explored this new territory. The expedition followed the Missouri River. After the expedition, fur traders set up trading posts in South Dakota.
After Lewis and Clark reported on their travels, white settlers began to move to South Dakota. On March 2, 1861, the U.S. Congress established the Dakota Territory. The Dakota Territory included all of present-day North and South Dakota and parts of Wyoming and Montana.
Settlers, traders, and miners came to the territory. Many of the settlers lived in simple houses made of blocks of sod (ground). There was no wood on the prairie to build with.
Sioux leader Red Cloud tried to slow white expansion by attacking forts. Sioux leaders eventually decided to sell the U.S. government much of their land east of the Missouri River in the Dakota Territory. They kept some land for themselves.
In 1874, gold was discovered on sacred Sioux territory in the Black Hills. Miners flooded into the area. The Sioux lost their sacred ground.
Today, gold is still important to South Dakota’s economy. Much of the gold mined in the United States comes from the Homestake Mine in the Black Hills.
By the 1880s, people in the Dakota Territory began to talk about statehood. Dakotans decided to create two states. On November 2, 1889, South Dakota and North Dakota entered the Union. Officials tossed a coin to see which state would enter first. North Dakota became the 39th state and South Dakota the 40th.
Pierre was made the capital of South Dakota. This city on the Missouri River is named for fur trader Pierre Chouteau. He established a large trading post there in the 1840s. Today, Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota. It is located on the Big Sioux River in southeastern South Dakota, near the border with Minnesota and Iowa.
The year after South Dakota entered the Union, a last major battle was fought in the state between the Sioux and the U.S. Army. On December 15, 1890, the U.S government tried to arrest Sioux chief Sitting Bull. The government was afraid of a Sioux uprising.
Sitting Bull was killed during the arrest. His people fled and were pursued by the U.S Army to Wounded Knee Creek in southwestern South Dakota. On December 29, 1890, soldiers killed between 150 and 370 Sioux. The conflict became known as the Wounded Knee Massacre.
On February 27, 1973, a group of Native Americans seized the town of Wounded Knee. They wished to bring attention to the problems of Native Americans. The group held the town for 71 days.
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