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Origins of South Dakota


Louis-Joseph de la Vérendrye
Louis-Joseph de la Vérendrye

The first peoples in what is now South Dakota were hunters and gatherers who may have appeared as early as 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. Towards the close of this stage of human habitation, called the Clovis period, the inhabitants of what is now South Dakota foraged for food, made stone weapons, and hunted big game animals, including the mammoth. This way of life gradually ended around 8000 bc as the global climate continued to warm and the population of very large game in the area declined. By about AD 1000 the majority of the inhabitants lived in farming settlements close to river and lake shores. Other inhabitants lived primarily by hunting animals on the prairies and gathering food from plants. The main peoples encountered by European explorers of present-day South Dakota were the Arikara, and most of them were in the Sioux federation, including Yankton, Yanktonai, and the Lakota Sioux (whom Europeans called the Teton), composed of the Oglala, Brulé (Sicangu), Hunkpapa, Miniconjou, Oohenonpa, Itazipco (Sans Arcs), and Sihasapa; and the Dakotas, also known as the Santee, composed of the Sisseton, Wahpeton, Mdewakanton, and the Wahpekute.

Arikaras were farmers who lived in villages of earthen lodges, mainly along the Missouri River. By contrast, the Sioux peoples were seminomadic. At their settlements near Mille Lacs in east central Minnesota, the Lakota gathered food, fished, and farmed, but twice a year they traveled west beyond the Missouri River to hunt animals in the area of present-day South Dakota. The Yankton and Yanktonai hunted mainly in the James River basin, but shared hunting areas with the Lakota west of the Missouri.

Sisseton and Wahpeton hunted from the upper Saint Peters (Minnesota) River northwest to the valley of the James River in what is now northeastern South Dakota. French explorers and fur traders were the first Europeans to enter present-day South Dakota.

During 1742 and 1743 François and Louis-Joseph de la Vérendrye led an expedition from Manitoba to the confluence of the Bad and Missouri rivers, where they left a marker that was discovered only in 1913. After the creation of the Louisiana Territory (Louisiane, in French) in 1700, France claimed South Dakota as a part of Upper Louisiana until they gave the Louisiana Territory to Spain in 1762, and Spain claimed the territory until they returned it to France in 1800. During the Spanish period, fur trader Pierre Dorion married a Yankton Sioux woman, and sometime in the 1780s became the first permanent European resident of South Dakota. Several traders came up from St. Louis. In 1794 Jean Baptiste Trudeau (also spelled Truteau) built winter quarters along the Fort Randall narrows of the Missouri River, and spent about two years living and trading with various Native American groups. After his return to St. Louis, his journals were widely used as guides by other explorers. North West Company traders arrived from Montréal, and Hudson’s Bay Company traders came down from the north. "South Dakota" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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