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Der Mount Rushmore in den Black Hills, Bild: Mendenhall Olga / shutterstock

South Dakota – the state of the indigenous people

The two “Dakotas” belong to the classic Midwestern states and are closely linked to the recent history of the USA. The former “Dakota Territory” was divided into the present-day states of North and South Dakota. It was mainly the Native Americans who lived their lives here long after colonization, until they were finally expelled by the new inhabitants of the USA. Today, South Dakota is famous for its natural treasures and the typical way of life that can be experienced in the Midwest of the USA . As part of the so-called Bible Belt, you will mainly meet the conservative American way of life here.

South Dakota – National Parks and Attractions

To this day, South Dakota, even compared to the rest of the Midwest, is sparsely populated. With Pierre and Sioux Falls, there are two cities that we will take a closer look at later. Otherwise, the state is mainly marked by the big eight – national parks and sights that you should definitely have seen when visiting South Dakota. The country is still particularly influenced by the indigenous people. In South Dakota, the “Indians” and their tribes were represented in large numbers until the end and it was here that the last atrocities against them happened so that they bowed to the “white man”.

While the indigenous people largely withdrew from their ancestral areas, many reserves and autonomous areas of them can still be found today. You can also discover them on a tour of the country and marvel at the crafts and learn more about the history of them. While the landscape is mainly inviting for adventure, the state’s cities still have a large number of impressive historic buildings that date back to the founding of South Dakota.

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The admiration of the big eight in the state of South Dakota

Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park, South Dakota
Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park, Image: Jess Kraft / shutterstock

The “Great 8” refers to eight unique landmarks that can be found in the state. Especially among travelers who explore the state in the course of a road trip, it is therefore a small adventure to take all eight of the landmarks with you. In general, it is recommended that you equip yourself with your own car when traveling through the state. The distances in the seemingly endless prairies don’t just seem long – it can take hours to arrive at a new destination or even just find a village, a gas station or a diner for a break. So it takes a bit of preparation to explore and conquer this special state in its entirety.

Probably the most important and well-known sight, which is even seen throughout the world as a landmark of the USA, is Mount Rushmore. In 1941, the image of the four most important presidents of the USA was finally completed and today shows the heads of Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Jefferson, who were carved into a mountain about 1,700 meters high. It took 14 years to work on this work of art, and to this day, the surrounding national park is considered one of the most famous sights in the entire country, attracting millions of visitors.

In addition to Mount Rushmore, the Badlands National Park is particularly worth mentioning. Nature has left behind rugged rock formations here in an impressive way. From the highest peaks, you can look into the country for miles and enjoy a view that you won’t have anywhere else in the country – not even in the Grand Canyon.

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If you want to combine the sight of nature with a little activity, you should go to the Custer National Park. The mixture of small canals, swamps, wide landscapes and small hills offers the opportunity for canoe trips or a bike ride along the paved paths. There are also many small restaurants in the immediate vicinity, which are a great way to experience South Dakota from this side and get in touch with the people who live here today.

Cities, culture and other sights in South Dakota

Deadwood, South Dakota
Deadwood, Image: Kenneth Sponsler / shutterstock

If you want to experience a little of the history of South Dakota, you should definitely plan a visit to Deadwood. The historic gold mining town has fully focused on recalling the time around 1865. In addition to a classic saloon, there are also performances about the gunslingers and other interesting exhibitions about the lives of the approximately 6,000 gold diggers who once lived in this town.

But Sioux Falls is especially worth a visit. Named after the eponymous tribe that was once dominant here, the city is the urban center of South Dakota and offers arguably the best opportunities for shopping, culture, and a visit to one of the city’s many steak and burger joints. The city’s historic core and museums tell the story of Native American history and provide insight into why the fate of the state was and still is so closely linked to Native American life. From here, most adventures to the rest of the state can be easily planned and the necessary cars can be rented.