Exploration of this area began in 1743 when Louis-Joseph and François Verendrye came from France in search of a route to the Pacific.
Settlement of South Dakota did not begin in earnest until the arrival of the railroad in 1873 and the discovery of gold in the Black Hills in 1874.
Agriculture is a cultural and economic mainstay, but it no longer leads the state in employment or share of gross state product. Durable-goods manufacturing and private services have evolved as the drivers of the economy. Tourism is also a booming industry in the state, generating over a billion dollars' worth of economic activity each year.
South Dakota is the second-largest producer of sunflower seed and oil in the nation. South Dakota is also a leading producer of a variety of small grains including oats, barley, rye, flaxseed, sorghum and alfalfa.
The Black Hills are the highest mountains east of the Rockies. Mt. Rushmore, in this group, is famous for the likenesses of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt, which were carved in granite by Gutzon Borglum. A memorial to Crazy Horse is also being carved in granite near Custer.
Other tourist attractions include the Badlands; the World's Only Corn Palace, in Mitchell; and the city of Deadwood, where Wild Bill Hickok was killed in 1876 and where gambling was recently legalized.
In 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a report that said the number of farms in South Dakota had decreased. However, the size of each farm had increased. There were less than 300 farms in South Dakota in 2012, according to the USDA, but the average farm size increased 13 acres, from 1,395 in 2011 to 1,408 in 2012.
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Selected famous natives and residents:
- Sparky Anderson baseball manager;
- Gertrude Bonnin (Zitkala-Sa) Sioux writer and pan-Indian activist;
- Tom Brokaw TV newscaster;
- Robert Casey writer;
- Shawn Colvin Singer, songwriter;
- Myron Floren accordionist;
- Joseph J. Foss WW II Marine fighter ace;
- Terry Francona former baseball player, former Boston Red Sox manager;
- Mary Hart TV host;
- Crazy Horse Oglala chief;
- Oscar Howe Sioux artist;
- Hubert H. Humphrey vice president;
- January Jones actor;
- Cheryl Ladd actor;
- Ernest Orlando Lawrence physicist;
- Russell Means American Indian activist;
- George McGovern politician;
- Arthur C. Mellette first governor;
- Dorothy Provine actor;
- Rain-in-the-Face Hunkpapa Sioux chief;
- Red Cloud chief of the Oglala Sioux;
- Ben Reifel Brulé Sioux congressman;
- Ole Edvart Rølvaag writer;
- Sitting Bull chief of Hunkpappa Sioux;
- Norm Van Brocklin football player;
- Mamie Van Doren actor;
- Adam Vinatieri football player.