SDHC Helps Commemorate 125th Anniversary

Thematic Focus, Speakers’ Bureau Programs Bring Attention to State’s Upcoming Anniversary

The cover of the 2014 SDHC Program Catalog, which featured the 125th anniversary of statehood as the thematic focus.

The cover of the 2014 SDHC Program Catalog, which featured the 125th anniversary of statehood as the thematic focus.

By Anna Wempe

During the past year, South Dakota and North Dakota have commemorated the 125th anniversary of their separation from the singular “Dakota Territory” into the defined states of today. The two states achieved statehood Nov. 2, 1889, making the Nov. 2, 2015 the official 125th anniversary.

Kathleen Norris speaks at the Rapid City Public Library as a part of her 2014 One Book SD Tour.

Kathleen Norris speaks at the Rapid City Public Library as a part of her 2014 One Book SD Tour.

To celebrate both the individuality of the states and the common threads that still bind us together, for the first time ever North and South Dakota collaborated through the One Book selection. Both states’ One Book selection this year was Kathleen Norris’s Dakota, set in Lemmon, South Dakota, 12 miles from the North Dakota border. Norris traveled throughout North and South Dakota, speaking to book clubs and doing readings and discussions with Dakotans.

This uniting of the Dakotas represents only one facet of the South Dakota Humanities Council’s recognition of this anniversary. The SDHC chose several granted speakers to appear throughout the state to discuss statehood and South Dakota history over the last 125-plus years. From Native historian Jace DeCory presenting the Lakota perspective in “The Lakota – 1889-2014” to “Mount Rushmore Past and Present” by Jean Patrick, the speakers have done their best to present an unbiased, un-tinted view of the history of South Dakota.

For a more anecdotal account of these histories, Yvonne Hollenbeck presents “Cowboy Poetry,” a reading of some of her works of poetry that reflect the South Dakotan spirit. Her life as a ranch wife colors most of her poetry, which also has strong roots in both her personal history and South Dakota history. Joanita Kant tells her “Reminiscences of 135 years in Dakotas,” a collection of the stories of her ancestors and their time in the Dakotas. She includes small-group discussion time as well as the entertaining and moving stories of settlers and their descendants.

Elizabeth Cook-Lynn presents a workshop at the 2014 South Dakota Festival of Books. Cook-Lynn's "From the River's Edge" was a suggested reading for SDHC's 125th anniversary initiative.

Elizabeth Cook-Lynn presents a workshop at the 2014 South Dakota Festival of Books. Cook-Lynn’s “From the River’s Edge” was a suggested reading for SDHC’s 125th anniversary initiative.

SDHC also created 125th Initiative Suggested Readings. These titles, chosen for their historical focus as well as overall quality, span a variety of time periods, from the first settlers to the building of the dams. A book list recognizing South Dakota’s statehood could in no way be complete without O.E. Rolvaag’s Giants in the Earth, a classic tale of survival on the South Dakota prairie. The Land They Possessed by Mary Worthy Breneman also tells an immigrant settler’s story; Land of the Burnt Thigh by Edith Eudora Kohl details the struggle of two single woman settlers and From the River’s Edge by Elizabeth Cook-Lynn delves into the not-so-distant past to the political and social struggles that accompanied the building of the Missouri River dams.

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