South Dakota, the Coyote State, became part of the United States in the November of 1889. It was carved out of the Dakota Territory named for the Dakota Sioux Indian tribes that inhabited the region prior to the gold rush of 1874 in the Black Hills. Since then the state's economy has become more agrarian as a result of the fertile soil that is abundant in the state's eastern half. The state's economy also depends on tourism, namely through Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills, which remain culturally significant to the displaced tribes native to the region.
Like most states in the Midwest, South Dakota is sparsely populated when compared to the metropolitan hubs on either coast. While the state ranks 17th in physical area, the population ranks 46th with just over 800 thousand people. That leaves only four states with smaller populations: Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming. To put South Dakota's size in perspective, there are on average only around 11 inhabitants in the state per square mile. Despite its limited population, South Dakota is a state of great significance. The presidential faces on Mount Rushmore serve as a timeless shrine, a reminder of the rich origins of our democracy. Also located in the state, the Homestake Mine is the largest gold mine in America and the source of 15 percent of the nation's gold. The Badlands of South Dakota are also of great consequence since much of what is known about dinosaurs, including the Tyrannosaurus Rex and other prehistoric creatures, such as the Woolly Mammoth, is the result of fossils found in the region. And if all that was not enough to convince someone of South Dakota's merit, the state is home to the 4th largest cave in the world, Jewel Cave.
So who lives in this incredible state? South Dakota's population is made up mostly of Protestants of German heritage. However, there is a sizable Norwegian population and about a quarter of the state is Catholic. South Dakota also has the 3rd highest Native American population with 60,358 living descendants of Native American tribes residing in the state. Unfortunately, many of the Native Americans on reservations face poor living conditions. Overall though, the state ranks 26th in per capita income and has an impressively low unemployment rate. It's a shame that in light of all that is great about South Dakota, the state is seeing dismal population growth.
Written by Lyndsey Morgan