South Dakota, the Mt. Rushmore State, is located in the Great Plains of North America. Surrounded by six states, Wyoming and Montana to the west, North Dakota to the north, Minnesota and Iowa on the east and Nebraska on the south, the area just northeast of Belle Fourche in Butte County, claims to be the geographical center of the entire United States.
When French explorers, the LaVerendrye brothers, arrived in South Dakota in 1743, the area was inhabited by the Sioux (Dakota) Indians. The Sioux had moved into the area in the second quarter of the 18th century and soon drove out the earlier inhabitants, the Hidatsa, Mandan and Arikara.
The U.S. acquired most of South Dakota from France in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase. Following the transaction, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the Corps of Discovery and selected Lewis and Clark to lead the expedition. They spent late summer and early fall in 1804 in the South Dakota region.
In 1817, a fur trading post was established at present-day Fort Pierre and was the beginning of American settlement in the area. The 1858 Treaty with the Yankton Sioux ceded most of the eastern part of South Dakota to the U.S.
The Dakota Territory, which included present day North and South Dakota and parts of Wyoming and Montana, was organized in March 1861. Following the completion of the railway to Yankton in 1873 plus gold discovery in the Black Hills in 1874, Settlement by people from the eastern U.S. and northern Europe was rapid.
Statehood for both North and South Dakota was established on November 2, 1889. The exact order of admission of the two states remains unknown. Because of the alphabetical position, North Dakota is considered to be the 39th state and South Dakota, the 40th.
Indian wars were frequent with the last major conflict occurring between the Sioux Indians and the U.S. at the Wounded Knee Massacre. At least 146 Sioux were killed, including women and children and 31 U.S. soldiers.
During the 1930's, a lack of rainfall, high temperatures and over-cultivation of the farming lands resulted in the Dust Bowl. Massive dust storms blew away fertile topsoil resulting in ruined harvests.
These adverse economic conditions drove many people away from the state, resulting in a decline in population.
The 1940's saw economic stability return to South Dakota as demand for agricultural products grew and construction began on six large dams, four of them partially located in South Dakota.
South Dakota, although still dependent upon its agricultural output, has diversified its economy. The financial services sector expanded when several large companies moved their credit card operations to the state. The production of ethanol has had a considerable economic impact, as South Dakota is one of the top producers in the U.S.
Tourism is now the second largest contributor to the economy. The Mount Rushmore National Memorial attracts over three million visitors each year as they come to gaze upon the sculptures of the heads of four former U.S. Presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.