South Dakota: Other Historic Sites

A list of important historic sites in South Dakota.

Bear Butte

Location: Sturgis, Meade County

Relevant issues: American Indian history

Statement of significance: Sacred to the Cheyenne, Bear Butte is the place where Maheo imparted to Sweet Medicine (a mythical hero) the knowledge from which the Cheyenne derive their religious, political, social, and economic customs. The site is in Bear Butte State Park.

Deadwood Historic District

Location: Deadwood, Lawrence County

Relevant issues: Business and industry, cultural history

Statement of significance: The site of a rich gold strike in 1875, Deadwood retains its mining town atmosphere. Many original buildings remain. While Deadwood is one of the most highly publicized mining towns of the trans-Mississippi West, much of its fame rests on the famous or infamous characters that passed through.

Fort Pierre Chouteau Site

Location: Fort Pierre, Stanley County

Relevant issues: Business and industry

Statement of significance: Perhaps the most significant fur trade/military fort on the western American frontier, Fort Pierre Chouteau was the largest (almost three hundred feet square) and best-equipped trading post in the northern Great Plains. It was built in 1832 by John Jacob Astor’s (1763-1848) American Fur Company as part of its expansion into the Upper Missouri region. The trading activities at the site exemplified the commercial alliance critical to the success of the fur business.

Fort Thompson Mounds

Location: Fort Thompson, Buffalo County

Relevant issues: American Indian history

Statement of significance: This large group of low burial mounds dating from Plains-Woodland times (c. 800 c.e.) contains evidence of the first pottery-making peoples in the area. It is situated on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation.

Frawley Ranch

Location: Spearfish, Lawrence County

Relevant issues: Business and industry, western expansion

Statement of significance: Frawley Ranch represents the development of practical land use for an area unsuited to homestead farming. In the 1890’s, lawyer Henry J. Frawley acquired several unsuccessful homestead farms and created a large and prosperous ranch here.

Langdeau Site

Location: Lower Brule, Lyman County

Relevant issues: American Indian history

Statement of significance: Possibly the earliest reliably dated village of the Missouri Trench, Langdeau Site represents the full emergence of the Plains Village traditions in the Middle Missouri cultural area. It is also a cultural intrusion of organized village people with highly adaptive strategies, including horticulture, into an area previously occupied by hunter-gatherers.

Molstad Village

Location: Mobridge, Dewey County

Relevant issues: American Indian history

Statement of significance: A tiny fortified prehistoric village site containing five circular house rings enclosed by a ditch, Molstad appears to represent a period of transition, when Central Plains and Middle Missouri cultural traits were combining to form the basis for Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara cultures as they existed at the time of the first contact with Europeans.

Vanderbilt Archaeological Site

Location: Pollock, Campbell County

Relevant issues: American Indian history

Statement of significance: Archaeological information about the earliest culture history of today’s Mandan and Hidatsa peoples is preserved in the Vanderbilt Village Site. They began to transform their environment along the Missouri River floodplain near the Cannonball River around 1000 c.e. by expanding their horticultural economy with permanent villages, substantial houses, and more complex technologies. By 1400, the Vanderbilt Village was a dynamic, well-established community within which its people lived comfortably, traded, hunted, fished, and created a highly developed clan tradition with neighboring villages.

Vérendrye Site

Location: Fort Pierre, Stanley County

Relevant issues: European settlement

Statement of significance: Here, in late March, 1743, the Vérendryes, the first Europeans to explore the northern plains region of the present United States, secreted a lead plate beneath a pile of stones. Sixty-one years before Meriwether Lewis and William Clark first arrived in this area, these French explorers, in search of a Northwest Passage to the Pacific, lay the basis for French sovereignty on the Upper Missouri, seeking to define the bounds of French Louisiana to include the entire Mississippi River drainage.

Wounded Knee Battlefield

Location: Batesland, Shannon County

Relevant issues: American Indian history, disasters and tragedies, military history

Statement of significance: On December 29, 1890, this was the scene of the last major clash between Native Americans and U.S. troops in North America. In the period following the introduction of the Ghost Dance among the Lakota and the killing of Sitting Bull, a band of several hundred led by Big Foot left the Cheyenne River Reservation. Intercepted by U.S. troops, they had given themselves up and had been escorted to an army encampment on Pine Ridge Reservation when shooting suddenly started. The ensuing struggle, short but bloody, resulted in seventy-five army casualties and the virtual massacre of Big Foot’s band.