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All About South Dakota: Land of Bones, Parks and Chislic

by | Sep 20, 2022 | All About States

Ask anyone from South Dakota to talk about their great state and they’ll likely mention something you’ve never heard of nor have ever seen on a restaurant menu: chislic. As one of the state’s most popular foods, it is a combination of deep-fried cubed meats that include lamb, wild game, pork and beef.

South Dakotans have plenty to be proud of about their state. They may also mention that the largest collection of Columbian mammoth and Wooly mammoth bones ever discovered are in South Dakota. The bones have never been touched or moved. It’s the only display of fossils in the entire world that has been left exactly as was found.

Can you find South Dakota on a US map? Here’s a big hint: it is bordered by six states! You’ll find North Dakota to the north, Minnesota and Iowa to the east, Nebraska to the south, and Wyoming and Montana to the west.

One of the largest American Indian populations (about 60,000 people and nine tribes) lives in the state. It’s the home of the Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota tribes, which form the Sioux Nation.

What really happened

  • When dinosaurs roamed the Earth, South Dakota was underneath a shallow sea.
  • About 10,000 years ago, humans first occupied the land. Its earliest settlers hunted large animals like bison.
  • By the 1700s, the Native American Sioux dominated the area.
  • In 1743, the LaVérendrye brothers were the first Europeans to see the Black Hills, a mountain range in western South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming. They buried an inscribed plate near present-day Fort Pierre, claiming the land for France. The plate is now displayed at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre.
  • South Dakota’s land was bought by the US from France as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.
  • In 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark explored a stretch of the Missouri River in South Dakota. Today, state highways 1804 and 1806 commemorate the expedition’s trip up the Missouri River in 1804 to the Pacific Ocean and the return journey in 1806.
  • As more settlers arrived, there were growing conflicts with the Sioux Indians. Various treaties were signed with the Sioux. But settlers didn’t always comply with them, especially when gold was discovered in the Black Hills in 1874. Thousands of miners came to search for their fortune, even though mining for gold violated one of the treaties. That launched the Black Hills War of 1876. The last of the battles between the US and the Sioux was the Wounded Knee Massacrein 1890. The calvary (US army soldiers on horseback) killed more than 250 Lakota men, women and children.
  • Before 1889, South Dakota was a part of the Dakota Territory. In November of 1889, the territory was split in half and both North and South Dakota were admitted as the 39th and 40th
  • In 1927, the Mount Rushmore project began, which is now the most popular tourist attraction in the state. Gutzon Borglum was the main sculptor who carved the faces of four US presidents into a mountain in the Black Hills National Forest. It took 14 years and one million dollars to finish. Can you name the four presidents?
  • Giant dust storms in the state were called black blizzards. One of the worst storms occurred on Sunday April 14, 1935. High speed winds caused great walls of dust to engulf entire cities and regions. This dust storm was called “Black Sunday.” The dust was so thick that people couldn’t see their own hand in front of their face.
  • During the 1930s, there was a terrible drought (called the Dust Bowl) that affected South Dakota and other states in the Midwest. With so little rain for many years, the soil dried out and turned to dust. Farmers could no longer grow crops as the land turned into a desert. The dust made it hard for people to breathe and piled up to the point where houses were buried. Some dust storms were so big that they carried dust all the way to the East Coast of the United States.

Stuff you should know

  • South Dakota has more miles of shoreline than the state of Florida!
  • At age 24 in 2002, Justin Davis was the youngest person to ever be elected to the South Dakota Legislature.
  • South Dakota supports 63 state parks and produces more sunflowers than any other state.
  • Less than one million people live in the state, the population hovers around 880,000. That’s an average of 10 people per square mile.

Crazy, funny, or just plain weird

  • Clark, South Dakota hosts the famous mashed potato wrestling contest.
  • The World’s Only Corn Palace is in Mitchell, South Dakota. The outside of the building is covered with pictures and designs made of red, brown, black, blue, white, calico, orange, yellow, and green corn–actually 3,500 bushels of corn!
  • In 1998, there was a dust storm so severe that schools were closed across the state.

Tell me more

  • Located in the Black Hills near Mount Rushmore, you can find the Crazy Horse Memorial. Crazy Horse was a Sioux Indian chief. When finished, this will be the largest sculpture in the world carved into a mountain at 563 feet high and 641 feet long.
  • Want one more interesting tidbit about Crazy Horse? He named his daughter “They are afraid of her”. Would you like that as your name?
  • The Badlands National Park is sometimes called “the playground” of dinosaurs because it’s among the best places on Earth to see animal fossils. The park’s name comes from a Native American word that means “land bad”. The area is dry and has severe low and high temperatures. The land is jagged, like a landscape from a different planet.
  • South Dakota is home to more than 175 species of butterflies and 400 species of birds.

Do you have a story you’d like to share about visiting or living in South Dakota? Email us and we’ll publish it along with your first name, age, and state where you live on Mo’s blog or social media pages!

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