During the 2016 legislative session, Harold Frazier, Chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, delivered the first State of the Tribes address. The address was delivered before a joint session of the South Dakota Legislature and provided a review of key issues impacting the nine tribal nations that share South Dakota’s geography.
In his address, Chairman Frazier spoke of many timely topics, including Medicaid expansion and infrastructure in Indian Country, including county roadways which weave through tribal lands. Frazier also spoke of the number of suicides on reservations in South Dakota, as well as efforts the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe was taking to address the methamphetamine epidemic within its borders—namely banishing members who are convicted of dealing, making or trafficking the drug.
The State of the Tribes Address is a tradition that has continued throughout the remainder of Governor Dennis Daugaard’s Administration. In 2017, Chairman Robert Flying Hawk, of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, delivered the address. Just last week, Chairman Boyd Gorneau of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe provided remarks before the South Dakota Legislature.
With President Theodore Roosevelt’s signature, Wind Cave became the nation’s eighth national park. It was also the first national park established to protected a cave.
Wind Cave is sacred to many indigenous tribes in the region, including the Lakota people who deem Wind Cave as their place of creation. The Lakota people believe they are descendants of the Buffalo Nation who emerged from the cave. The first individual to emerge from the cave learned the traditional Lakota way of life and returned into the cave to tell his nation about the surface of the earth. Once everyone emerged, they found they were unable to return to the cave and so they began life anew and established the Seven Council Fires.
While several mining claims occurred at Wind Cave, one of the most noteworthy was made by the South Dakota Mining Company. In 1890, J.D. MacDonald set out to explore the cave in hopes of mining it, but his efforts were unsuccessful. However, MacDonald was not without vision for the cave. He recognized the ability to provide tours of the cave and selling pieces of formations from it.
After filing a homesteading claim for the land, the MacDonald family devoted his time to creating a larger entrance to the cave while his son Alvin, explored the cave, mapping his explorations in a diary. By January of 1891, Alvin MacDonald had abandoned his efforts to find the end of Wind Cave.
In 1893, the MacDonalds joined forces with John Stabler and formed the Wonderful Wind Cave Company. Following the untimely death of Alvin MacDonald, however, the relationship between the MacDonalds and Stablers soured. When their concerns reached the Department of Interior, the agency ruled that since no actual mining had occurred in land held by a mining claim, neither party had a claim to the land. Taking the land out of homesteading status allowed for it to be placed into the protection of the federal government ten years later.
On January 3, 1961, Ben Reifel became the first Lakota man to serve in the United States House of Representatives. As a congressman, Reifel was a strong advocate for education, veterans affairs, and the humanities. Reifel was the first American Indian to serve South Dakota in Congress.
Although Reifel did not complete the 8th grade until he was sixteen years old, he was able to attain degrees in both chemistry and dairy science from South Dakota State University. During his undergraduate career, Reifel had joined the Army Reserves and later served in World War II. Reifel went on to earn both his master’s and doctoral degree from Harvard University after the war. He was one of the first American Indians to earn a doctoral degree.
After working for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Pine Ridge Reservation, Reifel ran for U.S. Congress as a Republican. Reifel won his first campaign and went on to serve five terms. As a congressman, Reifel advocated for education in tribal communities, and advocated for combining county and tribal schools so that both Native and non-Native students could learn together.
Reifel returned to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to work following his last term in Congress. Reifel died at the age of 83 in Sioux Falls, following a battle with cancer. Shortly after his death and to honor Reifel’s legacy, Congress renamed the Cedar Pass Visitor Center to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Additionally, Governor Dennis Daugaard declared September 19 as Ben Reifel Day in South Dakota in 2017.
On December 14, 1935, the Oglala Sioux Tribe narrowly accepted an Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) constitution, followingly various lengthy discussions. The Oglala and Rosebud Sioux Tribes passed IRA constitutions that were similar in content, although their political district boundaries varied.
Passage of the IRA constitutions was strongly encouraged by the Office of Indian Affairs, which had not previously been heavily involved in the creation of or revisions to tribal constitutions. Previously, the Office of Indian Affairs chose not to insert itself into tribal governance decisions, believing instead that revisions were better made by tribal community members and not outside governmental forces.
The adoption of the IRA constitution was not the first form of constitutional governance approved by the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Having a keen knowledge of constitutional governance, the Tribe adopted its first written constitution in 1921. Drafters the first constitution hoped the new form of governance would encourage political participation among tribal members. When completed, James H. Red Cloud submitted the document to reservation agent Henry Tidwell, who thought Red Cloud and his supporters were “troublesome, unprogressive old men.” Tidwell did not approve the constitution, as its terms fell outside of the philosophy of the Office of Indian Affairs.
A new constitution—which later became known as the Committee of 21—was adopted after Superintendent Jermark noted that the council meetings under the first constitution were called sporadically and believed tribal members to be disillusioned with the document. After the new constitution was written, Indian Affairs Commissioner John Burke revised the governing document to include a provision to allow the reservation superintendent to call special meetings of the tribal council. The constitution was later overwhelmingly rejected by tribal members and council delegates in favor of the first constitution which had been written by the tribe without external involvement.
Efforts are currently underway to reform the Oglala Sioux Tribal constitution. Read more about this process on the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
On December 1, 1945, Rapid City businessman Paul Bellamy traveled to London to lobby the United Nations preparatory committee to select the Black Hills as the organization’s world headquarters.If chosen, the international body’s headquarters would have been located in the valley that now holds Reptile Gardens.
Bellamy met with numerous foreign representatives to convince them that Rapid City and the Black Hills would be the best choice for the new UN Headquarters, touting the region as a region as a “tavern-free, prostitute-free, and tax-free” location without “big city problems.” Bellamy also noted the region’s central location within the United States as well as its abundance of building stone. Thanks to Bellamy’s efforts, Rapid City was one of five finalist locations in the United States.
Of course, in the end, the Black Hills were ultimately not the chosen location. The Rockerfeller family won out the bid and donated a parcel of land in New York City, which is the location of the UN headquarters today.
June 16 was later named United Nations and Reptile Gardens Location Remembrance Day by Rapid City Mayor Sam Kookier, commemorating Rapid City’s near-successful bid for the United Nations’ Headquarters in the 1940s, according to the Rapid City Journal.
Read more about Bellamy's United Nations' site bid on the Black Hills Knowledge Network historical archives.
Against all odds, a 78-foot-high Black Hills spruce tree arrived in Washington D.C. on November 28, 1970 to serve as the White House Christmas tree during the Richard Nixon administration. The tree was decorated with blue, yellow and green bulbs and featured a wire, tear-drop-shapped top ornament.
On its way to Washington, the tree had more than its fair share of difficulties. Not only did the train transporting the tree derail twice, but the tree had also been toppled over by gusting winds just days before the tree lighting ceremony. Several new branches were attached to the tree in order to fill out the gaps left by the damaged branches.
The tree’s troubles did not end once it reached the White House, however. Electrical sockets connected to the lights on the tree had been coated with liquid fireproofing spray, which caused the lower bulbs on the tree to explode.
The White House has put up a Christmas Tree since 1889. The First Christmas tree was placed in the Yellow Oval Room by the Benjamin Harrison administration. During Herbert Hoover’s presidency, First Lady Lou Henry Hoover started the custom of placing the “official” Christmas Tree in the Blue Room. Spruce trees have been the most popular White House Christmas trees, with a total of 48 used in Blue Room since 1961.
On November 9, 1992, South Dakota officially dropped its monicker as “The Sunshine State” and became known as “The Mount Rushmore State.” As chronicled by the Black Hills Pioneer, then State Representative Chuck Mateer of Belle Fourche introduced legislation in January of 1992 to change the state’s nickname. Opponents of the legislation including then State Representative Mary Edelen of Vermillion argued that it would make non-residents believe South Dakota to be “frozen tundra.”
South Dakota had several nicknames prior to being dubbed both “The Sunshine State” and “The Mount Rushmore State.” Perhaps the state’s earliest nickname was the “Coyote State,” which is believed to have been inspired by a horse race rather than the wild animal. In 1863, a solider from the 6th Iowa Cavalry and another from Company A of the Dakota Cavalry raced horses at Fort Randall. The Iowa soldier’s horse lost by a long shot, which cause an onlooker to remark “that the Dakota horse ran like a coyote,” thus inspiring the state’s nickname.
About 30 years later, South Dakota acquired a new nickname during a drought. The state’s first governor, Arthur C. Mellette, had embarked on a trip to Chicago in search of aid for his state when he ran into a newspaperman and personal friend, Moses P. Handy. Handy asked the governor how his state was faring, to which Mellette replied “Oh, South Dakota is a swinged cat, better than she looks.” Accounts of the incident indicated that Mellette meant “singed” or “burnt” when he said “swinged.” Shortly thereafter, the Chicago Inter Ocean newspaper published a story citing Mellette “governor of the swinged cat state.”
Additional historical nicknames assigned to South Dakota can be viewed on the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation’s website.
On October 26, 1918, a man was arrested and brought to trial for spitting in public in Rapid City. According to the Rapid City Daily Journal, the anti-spitting ordinance was established in order to prevent further spread of the disease “through the filthy and careless habits of some thoughtless people who persist in expectorating on the floors in public places and on the sidewalks.” The typical fine for the offense was $6, or $92 in 2017 inflation adjusted dollars.
Rapid City Mayor William E. Robinson instructed law enforcement officials to strictly enforce the ordinance in order to prevent further spreading of the Spanish Flu. A physician himself, Robinson attended to numerous patients at all hours during the flu pandemic. However, the mayor’s grueling work schedule and exposure to the deadly disease threw him into a state of exhaustion. He died on December 2, 1918, while still serving as mayor.
In 1918, the number one cause of death in South Dakota was influenza. Lawrence County suffered the greatest number of casualties, with 145 flu-related deaths. Statewide, the disease claimed 1,847 lives—28 percent of the total number of deaths in the state that year. By comparison, in 1917 influenza was No. 20 for causes of death in the state, claiming just 54 lives.
You can learn more about Mayor William Robinson on the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s Mayoral History Page.
After nearly three years of work by a variety of groups, Sheridan Lake and its dam were officially dedicated for use by the public on October 20, 1940. Approximately 5,000 people attended the dedication ceremony.
Like nearby Pactola Lake, Sheridan was also flooded to become a lake after the fall of mining in the area. Once known as “The Golden City,” Sheridan was established in 1875 alongside the rush for gold. Numerous miners resided in Sheridan, which boasted several saloons, storefronts and churches. Sheridan was even the county seat for Pennington County for three years from 1875-1878. However, mining in the town eventually subsided as prospectors moved their endeavors toward Deadwood and Lead. By 1920, there were only ten residents of Sheridan.
Construction on the Sheridan Dam began on August 15, 1938 and was completed on November 1, 1940. Congressmen Theodore B. Werner and Francis Case helped draw media attention to the project between 1936 and 1937. Much of the construction of the dam was completed by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the WOrks Progress Administration.
Sheridan Lake was constructed to cover approximately 380 acres with seven miles of shoreline and an average depth of 35 feet. The dam itself is 126 feet high and 850 feet wide.
Fifty-two years ago, Billy Mills charged across a rain-soaked track and set a new record pace for the Olympic 10,000 meter race in Tokyo, Japan. Not only did Mills set a new record, but he also became the first American to win gold for the race, and still holds the title today.
Billy Mills was born in 1936 in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Orphaned at a young age, Mills frequently recalls advice given to him by his late father, who told Mills he could “rise from broken wings and one day fly like an eagle.” Mills discovered his running ability in high school and was determined that the Olympic games are where he would soar.
Some credits Mills’ win to the heavy, soddened track. The 1964 Olympics was the last before all terrain tracks were utilized. A period of heavy rain had muddied the track, disabling many runners who were accustomed to ideal running conditions. During the final stretch of his race, Mills also made the decision to run on the outermost lane, which was not as sodden as the rest of the track.
Mills ran the 10K race in 28 minutes and 24 seconds, outpacing the previous record by over seven seconds. Only four other Americans have ranked highly in the 10,000 meter race: Max Truex who placed 6th in 1960, Frank Shorter who placed 5th in 1972 and Galen Rupp who placed 2nd in 2012.
At the urging of longtime Native Sun News editor Tim Giago, Governor George Mickelson proclaimed 1990 as the Year of Reconciliation to honor of the 100th anniversary of Wounded Knee. The Year of Reconciliation was intended to health the relationships between the state and tribal governments in South Dakota.
However, that was not the only challenge Giago posed to Governor Mickelson. Giago also requested that Governor Mickelson take up an effort to nix Columbus Day in South Dakota in favor of Native Americans’ Day. With a strong lobbying effort, the South Dakota Legislature was swayed to rename the day.
On October 8, 1990 Mickelson invited Giago to celebrate the Year of Reconciliation at the Crazy Horse Memorial. The event also commemorated the first Native Americans’ Day, which would be held later that week. South Dakota was the first state in the nation to rename Columbus Day in favor of celebrating the rich histories and cultures of American Indians.
Today, several states and municipalities have chosen to rename Columbus Day, with the most recent additions including the state of Vermont as well as Phoenix, Arizona and Denver, Colorado. Meanwhile, the states of Alaska and Hawaii have never officially celebrated Columbus Day. Alaska officially adopted an Indigenous Peoples Day in 2015, while Hawaii has celebrated Discoverer’s Day, in remembrance of the Polynesian explorers who originally settled on the islands.
On October 1, 1889, the South Dakota State Constitution was adopted alongside the approval of the state seal. However, the state seal had been in existence since 1885 when the first drafting of the state constitution occurred.
Dr. Joseph Ward, founder of Yankton College, chaired the Seal and Coat of Arms Committee during the Constitutional Convention of 1885. Dr. Ward and his committee penned the original description of the seal, which at the time was still a “Dakota” seal, as North and South Dakota had not yet achieved statehood.
Several changes from the original 1885 seal to the present seal were adopted during the Constitutional Convention of 1889, which was held in Sioux Falls. The original seal called for “pictures of mining work” which was changed to “other features of mining work.” And most importantly, the phrase “State of Dakota” in the 1885 seal was changed to “State of South Dakota” in 1889.
A standardized color version of the state seal was not adopted until 1986. Mitchell Artist Richard Coop Richard Coop designed the official seal in magic marker, which is now the basis for all reproductions of the seal. Coop’s version was later revised by John Moisan of Fort Pierre.
In 2016, Moisan penned a letter in which he recalled viewing the official state seal in a vault in the South Dakota Secretary of State’s office. However, having been designed in magic marker, the colors on the seal had since faded and were no longer distinguishable. When Moisan brought the issue to the attention of then-Governor Janklow, Janklow instructed him to paint a new state seal, which later hung behind the governor’s desk.
A full description of the state seal can be found in Article 21 of the South Dakota Constitution. The full contents of Moisan’s letter regarding his recollection of his work on the seal is available on the South Dakota Secretary of State’s website.
On September 17, 1937, the face of Abraham Lincoln was the third presidential likeness completed on Mount Rushmore. The face of Thomas Jefferson was completed just one year earlier, while George Washington was completed in 1930. Theodore Roosevelt’s face would not be completed until 1939.
Our nation’s 16th president was born in 1809 on his father’s Sinking Spring Farm in rural Kentucky. President Lincoln is best remembered for his efforts during the Civil War, and believed his greatest duty was preserving the union. Lincoln is also remembered for the abolition of slavery.
Mount Rushmore is one of many monuments across the country which either memorialize his presidency or bear his likeness. The first memorial to President Lincoln is located above the Sinking Spring near his birthplace. Most notably, the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. was completed in January of 1920. The monument includes several unique features, including the inscription of the 36 states in the union at the time of Lincoln’s death along the building’s frieze as well as 38 fluted Doric columns.
To learn more about Mount Rushmore, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s digital historical archive.
Just three years ago on September 11, 2014, Rapid City received its earliest snowfall since weather records in the region began in 1888. Prior to the September 2014 storm, the earliest snowfall was on September 13, 1970 when a scant seven-tenths of an inch was recorded in Rapid City.
While such an early winter storm is unusual for Rapid City, such an occurrence is more likely in the Black Hills. The 2014 storm dropped approximately eight inches of snow in Custer. Mount Rushmore reported seven inches of snow while Sundance, Wyoming also received a fair share with 4 recorded inches. Rapid City fared better than the surrounding area and escaped with a mere 1.6 inches of snow.
Residents of the Black Hills are more than accustomed to strange weather trends. While a large amount of snow fell in the hills, relatively few areas required plowing due to fast melt times. Rapid City schools didn’t miss a beat and normal hours were held. In Hill City—which received five inches of snow—the 1880 train operated on its traditional schedule albeit with a chainsaw aboard in the event the train encountered any downed trees across the tracks.
To read more about Rapid City, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s community profile.
On September 11, 2000, it was announced that the Homestake Gold Mine in Lead would be permanently closed after 124 years of operation. Larry Mann, the spokesman for the mine, shared that the falling price of gold and rising production costs were to blame for the closing. The Homestake Mine was once the oldest and largest producing gold mine in America, with a surface operation nearly a mile wide and underground tunnels descending more than 8,000 feet below the surface. It was also the largest employer in the northern Black Hills.
Though the news was a shock, many workers and townspeople observed previous signs that this day might come. Two years prior, Homestake officials announced massive changes to the mine including a complete restructuring of its underground operations, the shutdown of its open cut surface operations, and a layoff of nearly half the workforce. These changes were imposed to combat shrinking gold prices and sustain operations if gold remained valued above $325 an ounce; however, the price continued to decline. Over the next sixteen months, Homestake workers dismantled equipment and buildings while simultaneously mining the richest reserves to help stem the cost of the shutdown.
Less than a year later, the Barrick Gold Corporation purchased the Homestake Mining Company for a cost of 2.3 billion dollars. While it continued the shutdown of the company’s flagship operation in Lead, Barrick was interested in the other mines that Homestake owned including ones in South America and Australia. With this merger, Barrick became the largest gold corporation in the world.
When shutdown was complete, the remaining buildings of the Homestake Mine stood vacant. Some time later, talks of transforming the former mine into an underground research laboratory arose. The National Science Foundation became interested in the mine because the deep tunnels are an ideal location to study elusive particles called neutrinos and dark matter. After a large donation of $70 million by T. Denny Sanford in 2006, the site was selected to become a Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL).
After years of delicate construction, Homestake is now known as the Sanford Underground Research Facility and continues to study dark matter and neutrinos 4,850-feet underground. The lab now attracts scientists and science enthusiasts from around the world to learn the past, present, and future of the former mining goliath.
To learn more about the Homestake Gold Mine, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s digital history archive. Learn more about the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory at the former Homestake Gold Mine at the Black Hills Knowledge Network issue hub page.
In August 1924, South Dakota Department of History Superintendent Doane Robinson invited Gutzon Borglum to the Black Hills to discuss a “heroic sculpture of unusual character.” In a letter to Borglum, Robinson indicated that there were a wide variety of opportunities for large sculptures in the vicinity of present-day Black Elk Peak in Custer State Park.
It didn’t take Borglum long to respond to Robinson’s request. In his response, Borglum told Robinson that he was ahead of schedule in his current work in the South and would travel to the Black Hills in September.
Holding true to his word, Borglum toured Custer State Park where he climbed what was then known as Harney Peak and stayed the night at Sylvan Lake. His initial visit brought widespread attention to the idea of creating enormous sculptures in the Black Hills. Borglum visited the Black Hills again in 1925 when he discovered Mount Rushmore. From that point on, Robinson played an instrumental role in ensuring that Borglum’s vision for the mountain became a reality.
To learn more about Mount Rushmore, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s digital history archive. The South Dakota State Historical Society hosts an extensive collection of Doane Robinson’s correspondence and manuscripts on their website.
On August 30th, 1936 Franklin D. Roosevelt attended the dedication ceremony for the head Thomas Jefferson’s at Mount Rushmore. According to South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Roosevelt was already in the region touring regions that were devastated by the drought of the 1930s.
Roosevelt regarded his visit to the monument as an informal affair, as he didn’t view the natural setting as an appropriate venue for pomp and circumstance. During his succinct remarks, Roosevelt spoke of the monument’s tenacity and asked attendants to “meditate and wonder what our descendants...will think of us.” He hoped that future generations would reflect kindly on previous generations and take note of their hard work and labor in preserving American soil.
The completion of the Jefferson sculpture marked the monument’s second complete face. George Washington’s sculpture was finished six years prior to Jefferson’s. Originally, Jefferson was to be located to Washington’s left, but sculptors found the stone there too weak and relocated Jefferson to Washington’s right. Lincoln’s likeness was completed shortly after Jefferson in 1937. Teddy Roosevelt was the last to be completed in 1939.
View more photos of Mount Rushmore on the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s digital archives.
Once thought to be extinct, the discovery of a small colony of black-footed ferrets in Wyoming allowed the species to be repopulated and reintroduced across the country. On August 18th, 1994, the species made its grand re-entry into Badlands National Park.
Reduction in the prairie dog population was a large contributing factor for the demise of the black-footed ferret. Black-footed ferrets are heavily reliant on prairie dogs for their survival—the ferrets prey upon prairie dogs and also use their burrows as shelter. When prairie dogs were ravaged by excessive plowing of the plains, disease and poisoning, black-footed ferrets fell victim as well.
A small colony of black-footed ferrets were discovered in Meeteetse, Wyoming in 1981 by a ranch dog. Eight of those ferrets were captured and successfully bred in captivity. The original colony also helped to reintroduce over 1,000 ferrets across 19 sites in the west, including Badlands National Park.
In the Conata Basin—just south of Badlands National Park—a bout of sylvatic plague decimated both the prairie dog and ferret populations in 2008. The disease killed approximately 100 of the 290 ferrets in the basin, as well as nearly all of the prairie dogs. While much work remains to be done to ensure the health and proliferation of the black-footed ferret, numerous efforts are currently in place to protect the population well into the future.
To read more about environment and conservation issues in the Black Hills, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
On August 11, 1952 a commemorative stamp of Mount Rushmore was released by the United States Postal Service in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the creation of the monument. The first stamp of Mount Rushmore (pictured above) is based on a photo taken by Robert Frankenfeld, the father of Rapid City businessman Don Frankenfeld, according to the Congressional Record on June 3, 1991. The stamp was valued at three cents.
Mount Rushmore has been featured on postage stamps on four occasions: in 1974 on a 26-cent stamp, on the monument’s 50th anniversary in 1991 on a 29-cent stamp, and in 2008, on a priority stamp valued at $4.80.
Prior to the creation of commemorative stamps, postage designs were limited to U.S. Presidents and founding fathers. Commemorative stamps were first issued in 1893. The USPS Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee is tasked with selecting commemorative stamps each year. Although they use twelve basic selection criteria as a guide, the postmaster general has the final say in selecting commemorative stamps.
View more historical information about Mount Rushmore at the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s digital history archives.
While few Americans would recognize the name Martha Cannary, the name Calamity Jane brings images of the Wild West into the minds of many. Calamity was a woman of the west with a wild imagination. As a result, the accounts she left in her autobiography have been discovered to be false—leaving many historians to determine fact from fiction in her life.
One truth remains across the numerous tales about Calamity: her perpetual desire to drink. According to Deadwood Magazine, barkeepers in Deadwood considered keeping her glass filled was an operating cost—”Calamity was Calamity.”
While Calamity may have been infamous for her drinking, she also had a softer, kinder side. When a smallpox epidemic hit Deadwood, Calamity cared for miners who were quarantined. She also cared for children and adults afflicted with diphtheria and other diseases.
By 1903, Calamity’s Wild West lifestyle had taken its toll on her body. She had recently decided to return to the Black Hills via train, and became ill. Folks on the train helped her into a hotel in the town of Terry (located near present day Terry Peak) and called for a doctor. On August 1, 1903, Calamity Jane died of pneumonia, before the doctor was able to visit her.
To read more about the history of Deadwood, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s community profile.