Fur trade was once a booming business in South Dakota for both Native Americans and European Americans in the 1800s, but conflict broke out between the two groups over control of the trade. American government officials met with the tribes who relied on fur trade, and as a result, one of the first treaties between European Americans and Native Americans was signed. The fur business continued to thrive, but when artists and visitors steamed up the Missouri River to see the tribal villages, they brought with them a deadly disease that had devastating consequences. Smallpox killed off many Native Americans as well as the buffalo herds they depended on.
Today, at 8.7% of the state’s more than 850,000 residents, South Dakota has the third highest percentage of Native Americans in the country after Alaska and New Mexico. Many are from the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota tribes, which together make up the Sioux Nation. Much of the population lives on the Cheyenne River, Standing Rock and Pine Ridge Reservations, the country’s fourth, fifth and eighth largest reservations, respectively, in terms of land area. Pow wows and festivals are held frequently, giving tourists the opportunity to see and sample some of the native culture, including eating Indian tacos and tasting wojopi, an Indian dessert.
Rounding out the rest of the state’s population, 85% of South Dakotans are white, 2% are Hispanic, 2% are multiracial, 1% are black and 1% are Asian. By far the largest ethnicity represented in the state is German, with more than 32% of residents reporting this heritage. Roughly 90 percent of South Dakota residents are high school graduates – putting it among the top 15 states in the nation for high school diplomas - and over 26% have a bachelor’s degree. As of early 2016, the median household income statewide was $49,495 – roughly $3,000 below the national median – while 14% of state residents were living below the poverty line.
The fifth smallest state in terms of population, South Dakota may not be in the bottom five forever. It’s the 12th fastest growing state in the country thanks to a population growth rate of over 5% between 2010 and 2015. One factor that’s helping is its business-friendly reputation and optimistic economic climate. In 2015, CNBC ranked it #12 in the nation in its “Best States for Business” study, which looked at more than 60 measurements across 10 categories. In the “Business Friendliness” category, the Mount Rushmore State ranked an impressive #2 behind its neighbor North Dakota, while in the “Cost of Doing Business” and “Economy” categories, it was #5 and #8, respectively. Also noteworthy is the fact that South Dakota is one of seven states with no income tax.
Speaking of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, it’s one of the state’s biggest draws, helping the state attract over 13 million visitors and more than $3.8 billion in tourist spending in 2015. Other tourist favorites include Custer State Park, home to herds of buffalo, and The Corn Palace, built in 1892 to celebrate the state’s fertile soil and lure new residents. Redecorated each year by local artists in accordance to the annual theme, the palace’s “crop art” murals and designs are made of corn and other grains.
There have been over 80 recorded earthquakes in South Dakota, but the state's real estate market is not that shaky. In fact, South Dakota real estate enjoyed an enviable 26% total appreciation rate between 2006 and 2016, one of the higher rates in the nation. Property taxes vary from each municipality, and the state offers real estate tax relief for eligible senior citizens and those with a disability. As of early 2016, the median home value in South Dakota was $144,532, nearly $40,000 less than the national average, while the median rental price was $799.
Sioux Falls, the state’s largest city with a metro area population of over 248,000, is located in the southeastern region near the border with Minnesota and Iowa. It had a median home value of $165,439 within the city limits in early 2016. Close to the western border with Wyoming is Rapid City, which is flanked by the Black Hills National Forest and Ellis Air Force Base. The second largest city with a metro area population of more than 143,000, it had a slightly higher median home value of $170,943 within the city limits in early 2016.