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Another learning experience

sunny 78 °F

(Wednesday) The building which houses the Heritage Center is unique in that it is built into a hill overlooking the Capitol valley. Modern in design with a curved exposed front the roof & sides are covered in prairie sod. Inside, the museum is categorized into different themes. They are; the Sioux way of life with numerous artifacts and vignettes, the Experiences of Immigrants seeking settlement in a remote territory, & the Development of South Dakota during the 20th Century.

Remembering that after the Civil War in the 1860's the US Government embarked on the Indian Wars campaign from then until 1890 when the Natives were driven onto Reservations to contain them. A tragic story in American history. A couple factors influenced the settlement of the west. The flow of immigrants, mostly European and Baltic people seeking freedom from oppression in their homelands, was underway in covered wagons crossing the Great Plains. Freight companies, like Wells Fargo and a couple dozen others, hauled heavier loads of goods, mining supplies & equipment, furniture, etc. in their Conestoga freight wagons pulled by teams of oxen or mules to points west. During these times with the ever-present danger of Indian raids the US government established a network of forts which housed the cavalry. The soldiers escorted the wagon trains as protection along the way. At the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 passengers and freight were transported in more relative safety than before. Other significant events influenced the westward expansion. Those were the discoveries of gold. California's 1849 gold rush, South Dakota's 1874 discovery, and the Klondike gold rush of 1896 all created a fever for instant riches creating an influx of people to San Francisco, The Dakota Territory, and Seattle, respectively. While few got rich of those thousands who came most stayed to establish homesteads and family.
What I found interesting in the Native American section was the clever way in which the Indians lived. Before the white man arrived they lived simply to sustain themselves, moving with the seasons to find food; berries, grains, roots. They hunted for their meat and dried their meat for the harsh winters to avoid starvation. They traded among themselves, that is, with other friendly tribes among the Sioux nation. They fought with the bellicose Blackfeet Indians of Montana, who were always a threat to them. The white traders introduced them to metal tools and utensils to ease their living, and also guns to better protect themselves (a double-edged sword). The white traders exchanged these items for furs & buffalo hides, a saleable commodity in Eastern markets. The buffalo hide trade grew to 25,000 hides a year before Theodore Roosevelt stepped in and passed legislation outlawing the slaughter of buffalo, whose herds had almost been decimated.
The development of the state in the 20th century led to farming and cattle ranching. In 1903, for example, one man held the record for his ranch contained 865,000 acres of pasture for his beef cattle and supporting grassland. Today, of course, the ranches are much smaller but significant in size for cattle raising and crops. Driving from Pierre, SD to the state line of Nebraska were seemingly endless acres of cropland and hundreds (thousands?) of cattle grazing along the way. The introduction of the Interstate Highway system in the 1960's & 70's opened the state to ever-increasing commerce and tourism. The Black Hills with Mt. Rushmore's National Memorial of the faces of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, & Roosevelt carved into the mountain, and the giant Crazy Horse Memorial, the largest stone sculpture in the world, brings thousand of vacationers to the state each year. Sturgis, SD holds a major motorcycle rally annually, again attracting thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts. Another attraction is the city of Deadwood, known for its gold rush history and once one of the wildest towns in the west, another major attraction. All-in-all my visit to the State of South Dakota was time well spent.

Posted by dixter 06:36 Archived in USA Tagged south dakota

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