South Dakota Home Page
At the time of European exploration, South Dakota was inhabited by Native Americans of the agricultural Arikara and the nomadic Sioux (Dakota). By the 1830s the Sioux had driven the Arikara from the area. It was not until land speculators and farmers moved westward from Minnesota and Iowa in the 1850s that any significant settlements developed in South Dakota. Settlers were discouraged by droughts, conflicts with the Native Americans, and plagues of locusts. Rumors of gold in the Black Hills, confirmed by a military expedition led by George A. Custer in 1874, excited national interest, and wealth seekers began to pour into the area. However, much of the Black Hills region had been granted (1868) to the Sioux by treaty, and when they refused to sell either mining rights or the reservation itself, warfare again broke out.
Although gold did not make the fortune of South Dakota, it laid the foundation by stimulating cattle ranching when herds of cattle were brought to the grasslands of western South Dakota partly to supply food for the miners. Settlement in the east also increased and the period from 1878 to 1886, following the resumption of railroad building after the financial depression earlier in the decade, was the time of the great Dakota land boom, when the region's population increased threefold. Agitation for statehood developed; in 1888 the Republican party adopted the statehood movement as a campaign issue, and in 1889 Congress passed an enabling act. The Dakotas were separated; South Dakota became a state with Pierre as its capital.
Today, South Dakota, the Mount Rushmore State, is one of the least populated states in the country. The state's largest city, Sioux Falls, has only 100,000 people. Outdoor recreation is abundant from the Black Hills in the west to the plains and grasslands that cover most of the land and the Missouri River that wanders its way through the middle of the state. Great fishing and hunting can be found just about anywhere in South Dakota and the state is full of natural and historical attractions like Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, Wind Cave National Park, petrified forests, military outposts and battle sites like wounded knee. Whether you are looking for the bustling city atmosphere, the splendor of Mount Rushmore, or you want to find a secret fishing spot that you'll have all to yourself, South Dakota waits for you.
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