South Dakota

History of South Dakota

The U.S. State of South Dakota (SD) was admitted as the 40th state of the union on November 2nd, 1889.  Like much of North America, the area comprising both North and South Dakota was home to several ancient indigenous civilizations for several thousands of years before the first European contact was made in the region.  The first Europeans to set foot in modern-day SD were French explorers on an expedition under the leadership of the LaVérendrye brothers in 1743.  Upon setting foot in the region, they claimed the land as a part of the territory of French Louisiana.  Several different groups of Native American nations lived in the area, mainly the Sioux and the Arikara.

Shortly after the French laid claim to the region, the Spanish took it over as part of Spanish Louisiana, where it remained until the United States of America purchased the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon Bonaparte in 1803, in what would become the Louisiana Purchase.  Rather immediately, people began to move into the region, and the first trading post in the region was established at Fort Pierre.  By the 1850s, the United States had negotiated more SD from the local Sioux nation tribes as the area experienced rapid growth in population.  Subsequently, in 1861, the Dakota Territory was formally established.  This territory included both North and SD, along with parts of Montana and Wyoming.

When gold was struck in the Black Hills in 1874, people from all over flocked to the region to mine for gold.  This resulted in an illegal seizure of land promised to the Lakota and Sioux nations.  War broke out shortly after, and the Great Sioux Reservation was dismantled.  Nevertheless, the population of the Dakotas boomed enough to warrant a pitch for statehood.  The territory was split, and President Benjamin Harrison admitted both North and SD to the union on November 2nd, 1889.


Currently, SD ranks 17th among the fifty states in terms of land area and 45th in terms of population.  In 2015, the United States Census Bureau estimated the population of SD to be 858,469.  Sioux Falls is currently the largest city in South Dakota, being home to over one hundred thousand people.  While much of the neighboring cities and towns serve as agricultural centers, Sioux Falls has taken steps in recent years to broaden its commercial and economic endeavors, becoming a haven for retail and commercial finance.

SD’s economy is multifaceted, with a strong emphasis on the service industries and agriculture.  In addition, SD has cultivated a strong tourism industry through its recreational attractions like the Black Hills and Mt. Rushmore.


Traditionally, SD has been a strongly conservative state, usually aligning itself with the Republican candidate in Presidential elections.  Currently, both of SD’s U.S. Senate representatives are members of the Republican Party, in addition to its lone representative in the United States House of Representatives.