18 SCHOOLS in SOUTH DAKOTA
Most of the land that would become South Dakota was bought from France in the Louisiana Purchase in 1803; though it had gone back and forth between French and Spanish control since the first Europeans arrived at Pierre in the mid-18th century, the area was little explored by Europeans until the Lewis & Clark Expedition. After most of the land was given up by the Sioux in an 1858 treaty, the US established the Dakota Territory, but rough terrain and difficult travel kept out most settlers until the railroads came through. At that point, rapid settlement – largely by immigrants from the Scandinavian nations and Germany – sparked the brutal Indian Wars, as the Native American population was forced into reservations in the 1890s.
While agriculture and mining have been dominant industries since the first European settlers, the economic landscape of South Dakota has been changing in recent generations, and South Dakota’s education landscape has changed with it. Rural flight has seen many South Dakotans leave the country for urban areas; Sioux Falls is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the US, and a large proportion of the South Dakota population lives there. The banking and finance industry has become big business in South Dakota, thanks to banking-friendly regulations, and tourism is one of the largest industries, with two major national parks and ample areas for outdoor adventure. South Dakota’s major public research universities – the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University – are major players in that renewal.
The people of South Dakota are meeting the challenges of a new century as well, especially with education. The largest religious groups are Catholic, Lutheran, and Methodist, due to the large numbers of Norwegian and German immigrants, as well as aggressive missionary work by the Catholic and Methodist churches; not coincidentally, some of South Dakota’s best liberal arts colleges come from those denominations – Augustana University (Lutheran), Dakota Wesleyan University (Methodist), and Mount Marty College (Catholic). Meanwhile, one of the most important stories in South Dakota is the resurgence of Native American culture and identity. With the urbanization of South Dakota’s population has come a responding return of American Indians to the reservations, with a renewed cultural interest in education, history, and transformation. Young Native Americans of the Lakota, Dakota, and Sioux tribes are embracing the Seventh Generation vision and learning to see themselves of agents of change and renewal to their people in the most significant Native American resurgence since the 1970s.