SDHC Major Grant Deadline is Feb. 28

David Dorsey, a western artist from Newport, Neb., helps a young cowboy during the 2017 Dakota Western Heritage Festival in Mitchell, which received a South Dakota Humanities Council major grant. The Festival was created to celebrate the Dakotas' Western traditions and lifestyle through education and entertainment, including hosting speakers on the history of Ft. Pierre, hosting an author discussing his book on the last great cattle roundup, and much more. Photo courtesy of the Dakota Western Heritage Festival. 

From hosting famous authors and facilitating intriguing conversations to researching historical topics, the South Dakota Humanities Council's major grant recipients represent a variety of entertaining, educational and inspirational humanities projects.

The South Dakota Humanities Council encourages applicants to apply for these grant opportunities, which are awarded in the spring and the fall of every year. The deadline for our next major grant cycle is Feb. 28, 2020. Click the button below to apply or continue reading for more information about whether your project qualifies. (Before applying, please review the 2020 grant guidelines.)

What are Major Grants?

Major grants allow non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations in South Dakota to fill educational and cultural gaps and support communities' self-identified needs and programs fitting two categories: discussion (up to $7,000) and research projects (up to $2,500).

South Dakota Humanities Council awards grants to non-profit organizations that promote humanities in South Dakota through these community project grants. In addition to research and discussion grants, SDHC also offers these grants for projects under $1,000 that are accepted on a rolling deadline and awarded as funding allows. 

Grants are competitive. All projects must advance the mission of the South Dakota Humanities Council and promote the humanities in American public life. The grants explore various humanities disciplines. So, what are the criteria for research and discussion grants, and what kinds of projects have been awarded?


Discussion grants can fund public presentations such as conferences, lectures, presentations, festivals, and symposiums that engage the general public and scholar in a discussion of the humanities. The focus of the program should examine the topic from the view and perspective of the humanities.

Discussion programs can also contain a media element; for example, potential projects could include documentary films, radio and television productions, exhibits, website and social media projects, mobile web applications and humanities-related books or e-books. These projects encourage discussion in the humanities and utilize unique forms of media to advance the humanities. If a media program is approved, a contract covering copyright, distribution, credits, and disclaimers signed by the grantee is required. Discussion requests cannot exceed $7,000.

BHSU in Spearfish received a grant to bring noted author Emily St. John Mandel to Spearfish.

BHSU in Spearfish received a grant to bring noted author Emily St. John Mandel to Spearfish on Feb. 25, 2019. 

Discussion Grant Examples: Projects Approved in the Past 2 Years

  • Matthews Opera House and Arts Center in Spearfish was granted $7,000 in 2018 to host Emily St. John Mandel for its Madeline A. Young Distinguished Speaker Series: Emily St. John Mandel. Mandel participated as a BHSU Madeline A. Young Distinguished Speaker and also spoke at Spearfish High School to the student body. Her visit was a keynote event of the Spearfish 2019 NEA Big Read featuring Mandel's bestselling novel "Station Eleven."  
  • Community Action for Veterans in Sioux Falls received $1,000 for its discussion program "Living Library: Voices from the Military Culture." The program is designed to foster civic engagement between the public and individuals who have been personally affected by the military lifestyle. This special project was part of a broader outreach effort to develop a community of care for veteran and military families through the Bridging the Gap Festival that was held in January 2019 at the Central Church in Sioux Falls.


A research grant supports work to encourage scholarly research in the humanities, especially topics relevant to South Dakota culture and heritage. Applicants must include a plan for a minimum of three public presentations of the research. Requests cannot exceed $2,500.

Research Grant Examples: Projects Approved in the Past 2 Years

  • In 2018, the University of South Dakota History Department in Vermillion received a research grant in the amount of $2,000 for a program called "South Dakota Woman Suffrage." The grant was awarded to support research by Molly Rozum of Pickler Family Papers and the Woman Suffrage Movement Papers at the South Dakota State Historical Society Archives at Pierre and to fund Rozum's public presentations at educational institutions in South Dakota. Rozum's focus is on the history of woman suffrage in South Dakota and within the Northern Plains states.
  • In 2017, Brookings Reconciliation Council in Brookings received $1,000 for "Researching the Canton (SD) Indian Insane Asylum" that funded local author Phyllis Cole-Dai's exploration of the history of the federal institution, the only one of its kind in the United States, which operated in South Dakota from 1903-1934. The 400-plus Indians from at least 50 tribes detained at the asylum were deemed insane but instead were epileptics, alcoholics or "troublemakers" who had somehow offended authorities. Kept in deplorable conditions, many died. Cole-Dai's research into Asylum detainees and the Euro-Americans (mostly South Dakotans) who managed and staffed the facility is forming the basis for a historical novel or work of creative nonfiction, an informative website, and related public multimedia presentations.

Apply Today

To make sure you get your application finished by Feb. 28, get started today by clicking the button below! If you have questions, email or call the SDHC office at (605) 688-6113. You can view a sample application here.