"Surviving the '72 Flood"

Portraits and firsthand accounts from 27 survivors of the 1972 Black Hills Flood, published for the 50th commemoration.

"Calvin Coolidge in the Black Hills"

The adventures, misadventures and legacy of a sitting president's three-month sojourn in the Black Hills.

"The Black Hills of South Dakota"

A guidebook packed with maps, carefully curated recommendations, and everything else you need to simplify your trip-planning process.




Success brings Rounds an opportunity on Wounded Knee medals

Senator Mike Rounds deserves praise for his recent repeal of laws that discriminated against Native Americans. There’s a related issue he should consider next: the medals awarded for the Wounded Knee Massacre. Rounds, a Republican from South Dakota, has momentum on Native American legislation from the passage of his bill that wiped away 11 egregious and antiquated laws. They included provisions that authorized the federal government to punish “hostile” tribes, to make government benefits contin

Tribal chairman calls for collaboration; Noem spokesman responds with criticism

PIERRE — A tribal chairman said Thursday that better collaboration is needed among tribal and state officials on deadly storms, and Gov. Kristi Noem’s spokesman responded by describing that assertion and others as a “message of division” that perpetuated “false narratives.” Crow Creek Sioux Tribe Chairman Peter Lengkeek delivered the annual State of the Tribes address to lawmakers at the Capitol in Pierre. He talked about the response to recent winter storms, which has been a point of contentio

Woman pleads guilty to another crime 11 days after sentence reduction by Noem

A woman released from prison less than two weeks ago by Gov. Kristi Noem has pleaded guilty to another criminal charge that was pending while the woman was in prison. Danielle Blakney, 30, of Spearfish, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Lawrence County court to one count of simple assault. As part of a plea agreement, the prosecutor dropped another count of simple assault and a charge of intentional damage to property. A judge sentenced Blakney to 30 days in jail but suspended all of that time on se

Climate change is pushing wildfire smoke farther east in South Dakota

South Dakotans like to brag about their clean air, and for the most part, they’re right. But that boast isn’t as true as it once was, especially in the half of the state to the right of the Missouri River on a map – a region known as East River. Five East River cities have publicly available air quality data from the Environmental Protection Agency. All five suffered their worst daily Air Quality Index value sometime during the last four years. Experts say one of the culprits is wildfire smok

Noem goes against board, victims' families and review process to reduce prison sentences

When Gov. Kristi Noem reduced seven prisoners’ sentences recently, she overruled the Board of Pardons and Paroles in one case, went against some victims’ family members she hadn’t contacted, and may have violated her own executive order. The governor issued the sentence reductions, called “commutations,” on Christmas Eve. A news release said all seven people are paroled for the rest of their terms, with electronic monitoring, supervision by parole officers and the threat of a return to prison f

In search of a Christmas tree, we found a tradition

My wife and I didn’t realize how much we didn’t know about trees until we moved next door to the Black Hills National Forest eight years ago. That was natural for a pair of small-town, eastern South Dakota flatlanders. I grew up in Kimball and my wife grew up in Armour. Single acres of Black Hills land have more trees than our hometowns combined. So it’s unsurprising that our inaugural trip to cut a Christmas tree in the forest was a comical failure. That was in 2014, our first year as Rapid

Rosebud Tribe struggles to clear roads as blizzard contributes to at least one death

The situation is grim on the Rosebud Reservation after two rounds of severe winter weather pummeled the area, contributing to at least one death. Many people remain snowed-in and some have run out of propane for their furnaces, causing tribal residents to fear there may be more deaths from the cold. Wayne Boyd, chief of staff for Rosebud Sioux Tribe President Scott Herman, said a 12-year-old with a medical condition died when the weather and impassable roads kept responders from reaching the ch

Head of state universities orders compliance with Noem’s TikTok ban

The executive director of the South Dakota Board of Regents says the state’s higher education system will obey a new TikTok ban on state devices, and state universities will delete the various TikTok accounts they currently operate. Regents Executive Director Brian Maher made the announcement Thursday during a regularly scheduled Board of Regents meeting at South Dakota Mines in Rapid City. Gov. Kristi Noem announced the ban Nov. 29 in an executive order prohibiting the use of the TikTok socia

Critics berate regents about drag show, and senator pledges to bring legislation

After the leader of the state’s university system announced “process improvements” in response to controversy about a recent drag show, critics denounced the handling of the show and a state senator pledged legislation to address it. The show took place Nov. 16 at South Dakota State University in Brookings. Some commenters on social media praised the show, while others criticized the university for allowing it and criticized advertising that described the show as “kid friendly.” Brian Maher, e

Lawsuit brings tribe a seat on county commission

A county commissioner in South Dakota will resign and be replaced by a Native American tribal member as the result of a voting rights lawsuit. The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe filed the lawsuit against Lyman County in May. Much of the tribe’s reservation is within the county, on the western bank of the Missouri River in central South Dakota. “The tribe is elated,” said one of the tribe’s attorneys, Samantha Kelty, of the Native American Rights Fund. “It is an incredible outcome.” After several twi

Rounds criticizes Trump's call for 'termination' of the Constitution

U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, is criticizing former president Donald Trump for proposing the “termination” of the U.S. Constitution. “Americans have a deep appreciation for the Constitution and our Founding Fathers who risked their lives to establish it,” Rounds’ statement said, in part. “As elected officials, we take an oath to support and defend the Constitution. We should never dishonor that oath. No one is above the Constitution.” Rounds was reacting to Trump’s Saturday post on Tr

Voters get their say on uranium mining in Fall River County

After years of arguing from opposite sides of a mining debate, Mark Hollenbeck and Susan Henderson are about to learn what their friends and neighbors think. Voters in Fall River County will consider a local ballot measure in the Nov. 8 general election. If approved, the measure would designate uranium mining as an unlawful nuisance in the county. It remains unclear if the vote would prevent mining, however. The vote is the latest development in a 16-year saga. It’s been that long since a corp

The key words and missing definition in the Noem airplane controversy

When authorities announced the conclusion of a recent investigation into Gov. Kristi Noem’s use of a state airplane, their news release included a potentially key phrase. The news release said, in part, “there were no facts to support a criminal prosecution under current law.” Those last three words – “under current law” – leave some room for interpretation. It’s the kind of phrasing that could be read as an invitation to change the law, so charges could be filed in the future if similar behav

The trouble with Monae Johnson and Jell-O

I was interviewing U.S. Sen. John Thune several years ago when he used a phrase I’d never heard in a political context. He said rounding up votes in the Senate was like “nailing Jell-O to a tree.” Lately, I’ve been thinking the same description applies to something else: interviewing Monae Johnson about the 2020 presidential election. Johnson is a Republican who will become South Dakota’s top elections official if she wins the Nov. 8 race for secretary of state. She has dodged questions about

Q&A: Consider primaries for attorney general nominees, Vargo says

Attorney General Mark Vargo said the state should consider a new method of choosing political nominees for the office he holds. “I will say that I do think it would be smart to consider whether or not that nomination process should be through a convention or through a primary,” Vargo said. Currently, delegates at political party conventions nominate the candidates for the state’s top law enforcement job. Meanwhile, voters in primary elections choose nominees for some other statewide offices, i

Shining a new light on South Dakota

When I was in journalism school more than 20 years ago, a professor arranged a conference call for a group of students with a national magazine editor. I asked for career advice. The editor replied, “I’ll tell you one thing: I wouldn’t get a job at a newspaper.” That was probably not the answer my professors at South Dakota State University wanted to hear. They were preparing me and dozens of other students to be the next generation of newspaper reporters, photographers and editors. But we all

Differences on health care emerge in gubernatorial debate

SIOUX FALLS — Differences in health-care policy emerged between two candidates for governor of South Dakota who participated in a televised debate Monday night on South Dakota Public Broadcasting. Democratic candidate Jamie Smith said he supports raising the reimbursement rates paid to medical providers that care for Medicaid patients. “When you lose $50 a day on every patient you’re taking care of, you can’t do that. You can’t do it very long,” Smith said. Medicaid is a federal-state health

Black Hills timber sales fall 20 percent

RAPID CITY — Timber sales in the Black Hills National Forest have declined sharply, prompting praise and condemnation. The national forest’s advisory board met recently in Rapid City, where Forest Supervisor Jeff Tomac shared figures from the 2022 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Timber sales in the forest totaled 112,874 CCF, Tomac said – down 20 percent from the prior year, and the lowest number since 2003. In the vernacular of the Forest Service, 1 “CCF” is 100 cubic feet of timber (the fir

A new look at Joe Forman: What a journal might tell us about a notorious South Dakota manhunt

This interview posted above is from SDPB's daily public-affairs show, In the Moment, hosted by Lori Walsh. One hundred years ago Wednesday, four inmates escaped from the State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, beginning one of the most infamous manhunts in state history. For one week, ringleader Joe Forman and his three accomplices evaded law enforcement. On Aug. 25, 1922, it all ended near Murdo in what would come to be known as the "Murdo Massacre." One of Forman's accomplishes, allegedly Henry C

Company plans 260 new exploratory holes in search of Black Hills gold

A company exploring for gold in the northern Black Hills has attracted millions of dollars from investors and plans to add hundreds of new test holes to its exploration program. The company is Dakota Gold, which has offices in Lead and Canada. The company went public on the New York Stock Exchange in April. Chief Operating Officer Jerry Aberle said the company is emulating the late George Hearst, who scooped up land and mining rights in the 1800s to create the Homestake mining empire in Lead.
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