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Unit 1





11,500 B.C.
Clovis hunters kill mammoths at end of Ice Age
Folsom hunters chase giant bison
Plains Archaic hunters move into region
Plains Archaic peoples carve petroglyphs
Woodland peoples build mounds
A.D. 1000
Middle Missouri people begin farming
Coalescent peoples enter South Dakota and Little Ice Age begins
Columbus sails to America
Arikaras, Cheyennes, Crows, Lakotas, and other tribes live in South Dakota
LaVerendryes visit South Dakota
Revolutionary War begins
Pierre Dorion settles in South Dakota
U.S. Constitution written
Lewis and Clark Expedition begins
Students find La Verendrye plate

Lesson 2
A Changing World

     Milder winters and summers came to South Dakota. It was about one thousand years ago. Villages sprang up along the rivers. One village was near present-day Mitchell. Here, people built wattle and daub houses. They wove twigs together and covered them with clay or mud. These buildings had long walls dug into the earth. Men hunted bison, but women began something new. They became the first farmers in South Dakota.

Antler Rake and Bison Scapula Hoe
Figures redrawn by Lynet Dagel from Gilbert L. Wilson, Agriculture of the Hidatsa Indians, copyright 1983 by the South Dakota State Historical Society. Used with Permission.

     The women grew corn, beans, sunflowers, tobacco, squash, and pumpkins. They made rakes, hoes, and knives from bones and antlers. They cooked in large clay pots. They dug cache pits for storing food. These farmers and hunters are now called the Middle Missouri people. They were the ancestors of the Mandans.

     Then the climate changed again. It was about A.D. 1300. Archaeologists call this time the "Little Ice Age." Winters grew long and cold. Farming was harder. New tribes moved into South Dakota. They came from the south and went up the Missouri River. They settled near the Middle Missouri people.


     The men hunted bison; the women farmed. They lived in houses lined with sod. They built ditches or fences to protect their villages. Their hunting camps stretched across the entire state. These people are called the Coalescent people. They were the ancestors of the Arikaras and Pawnees, who were living in South Dakota when the first Europeans began to explore the Great Plains.

     Christopher Columbus landed on the island of San Salvador in 1492. He was from Italy, a country in Europe. He was trying to sail around the world. He thought he had made it. He thought San Salvador was part of the East Indies. The East Indies is a group of islands near China. But he was only halfway there. San Salvador is in the Bahama Islands near Florida. It is just south of North America.

     The people who lived in Europe did not know about America. Columbus called the people he met on San Salvador "Indians." He thought they were natives of the East Indies. It was not long before Europeans figured it out. Soon they knew that Columbus had sailed to a "new" world. But they still called the people living here Indians. That is not what these people called themselves. Each American Indian nation had its own name for its people.


    Two hundred years passed. Many native peoples now lived in South Dakota. Small towns dotted the banks of the Missouri River. Here the Arikaras built rounded houses. They dug them into the earth. They used tree branches and clay for the roofs. The Arikaras traded corn, vegetables, and tobacco for meat and buffalo hides. They traded with the Mandans to the north. They also traded with the Crows, Cheyennes, and Pawnees, who lived west and south of the Arikara villages. Soon the Arikaras were also trading horses. Europeans brought horses back to America. These animals would change the life style of the people of South Dakota.

Earth Lodge
Photo courtesy of State Archaeological Research Center, South Dakota State Historical Society


Dakota People
Photo courtesy of South Dakota State Historical Society

     Our earliest written record of the Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota (Sioux) peoples dates from the 1640s. French priests met them in what is now Wisconsin. The people fished and hunted in deep forests. They lived in houses made of bark and wood. Within a few years, they began to move west toward South Dakota. Three groups came to the Great Plains. Each had different customs and languages. They all learned to ride horses and hunt buffalo. They lived as nomads on the prairie. Soon, the Dakotas, Lakotas, and Nakotas pushed the Arikaras north. They pushed the Mandans, Cheyennes, and Crows farther north and west.


     The early South Dakotans did not have books. They did not have computers or even an alphabet. They passed their history from one age to another by telling stories. This is known as the oral tradition. Storytellers memorized important stories. Then they told them again and again. They told them to the children in their families and tribes. When the children grew up, they told these same stories to their children—and so on.

Winter Count
Winter Count

     The Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota peoples also kept winter counts. Each winter, the keeper of the winter count drew one picture on an animal hide. The image stood for the most important event of the year. The elders of the tribe and the keeper of the winter count chose the event. A famous winter count is Lone Dog’s winter count. The images begin in the center. Then they circle out and around. A winter count is similar to a time line. They both keep track of important events.