South Dakota, a Midwestern state covered in prairies, plains and the mineral-rich Black Hills, is home to Mount Rushmore National Memorial and the Badlands National Park. Split into two distinct regions by the Missouri River, the young state is full of rich Native American and frontier history.
By the late 1700s, the Sioux Nation dominated the northern Plains after centuries of clashes with other Native American tribes. France claimed the land and sold it to the U.S. in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase.
One year later, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark explored the Missouri River stretch of present-day South Dakota, meeting Yankton and Lakota Sioux tribes along the way. In 1861, Yankton was named the capital of the newly organized Dakota Territory, which included what is now South and North Dakota and much of Wyoming and Montana.
The 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie granted the Lakota the Black Hills and land in South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. When the U.S. seized the land nine years later, white settlers and miners broke up the Great Sioux Reservation, forcing the Native Americans to resettle on smaller and widespread reservations.
North and South Dakota were admitted as the 39th and 40th states in 1889. Because of controversy over which state should be signed into the Union first, President Benjamin Harrison shuffled the bills at random and did not record the order.
Gutzon Borglum began sculpting Mount Rushmore National Memorial in 1927 with the intention of carving the four featured presidents – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt – from head to waist, but died in 1941 before completion. With his death and impending American involvement in World War II, the memorial was declared completed.
After World War II, South Dakota’s economy diversified from its agricultural roots, and federal programs brought reservationist Native Americans into urban centers where industrial jobs were available. Still, the economic plight of Native Americans worsened in the 1980s and 1990s when federal funding was cut off.
In 1980 – more than a century after the U.S. broke the Treaty of Fort Laramie and seized Sioux land – the Supreme Court ruled that the government had taken the land illegally and awarded $120.5 million to the Lakota Sioux, who refused to accept payment and instead demanded the territory be returned.
Native Americans have continued to protest U.S. policies through the past two decades. The controversial $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline project, which would run through the Dakotas to Illinois, has garnered national media attention in recent years.
Today, agriculture generates 20 percent of the state’s economic activity. Other main industries include bioscience, business and professional services, outdoor recreation and oil and gas production. South Dakota’s growing tourism industry has also boosted the state’s economy, with Mount Rushmore and the Badlands National Park among visitor favorites.
The 2015 median household income of $53,017 was slightly below the national average, though the poverty rate was also lower in South Dakota than nationally.
Just under 7 percent of residents speak a language other than English at home – about a third of the national rate – and just over 3 percent are foreign-born, about a fourth as in the rest of the country.
About 91 percent of South Dakotans over 25 have their high school degree, just above the national rate, though fewer earned at least a bachelor’s degree.
Almost 48,000 – or 9 percent – of South Dakotans are veterans, while about 7.6 percent of the overall U.S. population have served in the military.
Just under 80 percent of the state’s adults are Christian, and South Dakota is the 16th most religious state, according to Pew Research. One of only seven states with the minimum three Electoral College votes, South Dakota hasn’t voted for a Democratic president since Lyndon B. Johnson’s landslide victory in 1964.