Dakota Digest

A new SDPB Podcast

A podcast delivering the best SDPB programming.

Click here for the Dakota Digest archives prior to Sept. 2012. Current archives are available by scrolling down.

Cobell Settlement Payout Soon

Nov 28, 2012

The payout for the landmark Cobell Case may happen before Christmas. 

The $3.4 billion dollar settlement stems from 17 years of litigation over mismanagement of federal lands held in trust for Native American people. 

Federal officials say they want checks of $1000- dollars to go out to more than 300,000 beneficiaries before Christmas.

Examining Poverty In South Dakota

Nov 28, 2012
Kealey Bultena / SDPB

In South Dakota, top income earners have more buying power and poorer people can do less with their money. That’s according to recent data released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute; however, adjusted Census data brings South Dakota’s poverty rate down.  

When economic discussions arise, the poverty line becomes a key factor in examining the difference between the rich and the poor. The poverty line is an absolute, standard dollar amount that acts a threshold to label certain households impoverished.

SF To Consolidate Elementary Schools

Nov 26, 2012
Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Hundreds of elementary students who attend a handful of Sioux Falls schools say goodbye to their buildings by 2015. Monday night, school board members approve shutting down two small, older schools and constructing one larger building on the site of a third elementary. At the meeting, parents and school administrators split along ideological lines.

The Dust Bowl

Nov 19, 2012


The first time the University of South Dakota met South Dakota State in football—Benjamin Harrison was President of the United States.  With breaks for world wars and movement to other classifications, the rivalry has grown to one of the most intense in the Midwest.  Saturday, for the first time in nearly a decade, the Jackrabbits and Coyotes meet for a football game.  As South Dakota Public Broadcasting’s Gary Ellenbolt reports on today’s Dakota Digest, Coughlin-Alumni Stadium in Brookings will invoke many memories.

Organization Uses Gardens As Classrooms

Nov 14, 2012

A non-profit organization in Sioux Falls is using gardens to help children learn and develop. Ground Works brings academic lessons to life as students use teaching gardens as an outside classroom. There are currently three teaching gardens in Sioux Falls where more than 12 hundred students interact.

Variety of keyboards on loan at SDSMT

Nov 9, 2012
Photo by Victoria Wicks

Three Steinway pianos and a harpsichord are currently on loan to South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. They offer an opportunity to learn the differences between a piano and a harpsichord, and the differences between one piano and the next.

It’s pretty hard to miss the big building that sits at Highway 50 and Dakota Avenue in Vermillion.  The Dakota Dome is, in one setting, a sports venue, a tourist attraction, an engineering marvel—and something for high school football teams to aim for from two-a-day practices in August, to now.  12 teams in six classes have made the trip to the Dome to see if they can satisfy the last available goal of a state championship.  It’s time once again to take a look at the more fascinating stories to come from the weekend.  Welcome to “State Football:  By the Numbers.”  What’s first, Steve?

2012 Election Reaction

Nov 7, 2012

The 2012 Election is over.  In South Dakota Republican candidates did very well in both statewide and legislative races.

Democrats managed to hold on to a number of seats in the state legislature—but failed to achieve the kind of overall results many had hoped for.

On today’s Dakota Digest SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray put together some reactions following Tuesday’s election.


"The Needles of Rushmore" Not Just for Climbers

Nov 5, 2012

This week a new book about South Dakota is on the shelves-but it’s not a western romance or a new take on Great Plains politics–rather it’s a rock climbing guide.  SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray spent some time with the authors as they were making their way up some Black Hills granite.  He reviews the new guide on today’s Dakota Digest—and reports that even if you’re not an avid rock climber this book has something to offer, stunning photographs and views of the Black Hills impossible to capture without a rope and harness.

Ballot Breakdown: Constitutional Amendments

Nov 2, 2012

In just four days, South Dakotans head to the polls. Amid high-profile state and national races, voters also cast their ballots in favor or against seven other measures. Four of those are proposed amendments to the state’s constitution.

South Dakota voters have a packed ballot this election year. They have four different opportunities to alter the state’s constitution. Those amendments are conveniently labeled M, N, O and P.

Haunted South Dakota

Oct 31, 2012

When it comes to haunted locations in South Dakota Deadwood might be the first place in mind. But, it turns out East River has its own rich history of hauntings.

Hannah Olsen / SDPB

Twenty-two years after nine-year-old Rebecca O’Connell was found raped and murdered, the man convicted of the crime was executed.  Witnesses Tuesday night watched Donald Moeller die by lethal injection at the South Dakota State Penitentiary.

Noem and Varilek Enter Final Stretch

Oct 26, 2012

South Dakota’s Republican U.S. House member Kristi Noem is facing the first challenge of her congressional career.   By many accounts Noem is a very strong candidate, she comes from an agricultural background and her party enjoys a healthy majority in South Dakota.

Noem’s challenger Matt Varilek is largely seen as the underdog in this race.  As a Democrat he faces an uphill battle from the start.   But given this, some analysts say Varilek is doing better than expected.

Photo by Jim Kent

There’s a common misconception among people that having a disability makes it difficult – if not impossible – for someone to succeed in their chosen profession. In fact, the very idea of a disabled person having a chosen profession is often viewed as unrealistic. Today we visit a woman who shows us that living with a disability can actually inspire someone to rise to the top of their field.

Okay, how’s your Hollywood trivia? What do George Burns, Nancy McKeon, Johnny Depp and Ian McShane have in common?

Russell Means Dies on Pine Ridge

Oct 22, 2012

Hollywood actor and American Indian activist Russell Means died early Monday morning at his ranch near Porcupine on Pine Ridge.  Means was 72 years old and had battled cancer for the past few years.
Means is noted not only for his roles in Hollywood film but also for being a seminal figure in the American Indian Movement.

Senator George McGovern Dies in Sioux Falls

Oct 21, 2012

Former Senator George McGovern died today in hospice care in Sioux Falls. He was 90 years old. McGovern encountered age-related medical conditions that led to his death.

McGovern served in South Dakota in Congress for almost a quarter century, both as a U.S. Representative and Senator. McGovern lost the 1972 presidential race against Richard Nixon by a landslide; Nixon later resigned amid the Watergate Scandal.

By Victoria Wicks

Voters in a number of states have to produce some form of identification when they go to the polls, a requirement opposed by those who say the law disenfranchises specific groups. South Dakota requires a government-issued photo ID but allows people without the document to vote after signing an affidavit. For today’s Dakota Digest, SDPB’s Victoria Wicks explores these issues and other state laws that affect voters.

For more information on voting or registering to vote in South Dakota, click on the following sites:

Tourism Industry Holds Its Own

Oct 8, 2012

While the recession may have a lingering grip on some parts of the country, South Dakota’s second biggest industry is powering forward.

Tourism did well this year.    The visitor numbers at main attractions at like Mount Rushmore are up six and a half percent over last year--industry groups say this reflects tourism growth overall.

SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray has today’s Dakota Digest.

Library of Congress

Before the award-winning documentary film “The Thick Dark Fog”and the book “They Called Me Uncivilized”, there were the Lakota man’s boarding school experiences that led to both stories. Today, Walter Littlemoon shares his memories of a childhood spent in a federally-imposed school system that he tells us did everything but educate.

Orange and yellow leaves paint the trees across land that’s been in Walter Littlemoon’s Lakota family for generations. It’s a quiet, peaceful place that reminds him of his childhood.

Noem Vs. Varilek in U.S. House Race

Oct 3, 2012

South Dakota’s lone U.S. House seat is up for grabs in November. Democrat Matt Varilek is challenging incumbent Republican Congresswoman Kristi Noem in the election. SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray takes a look at the race in today’s Dakota Digest.

Patients in Sioux Falls in need of a heart valve replacement may no longer face mandatory open heart surgery.    Sanford Health in North and South Dakota has been approved as one of a hundred other sites around the country in performing a new non-invasive heart valve replacement procedure.  On today’s Dakota Digest SDPB’s Cara Hetland has the story of how the surgery is different but necessary for the sickest of patients.

Marjorie Walberg was told in February she would need her aortic valve replaced.  For her it was bound to happen sometime.

Victoria Wicks

By Victoria Wicks
Bruce Raisch, who calls himself the Ghost Town Hunter, says he comes to South Dakota once or twice a year because the state is rich with abandoned towns and landmarks. On his constant travels, he gathers material for his books, which include Ghost Towns and Other Historical Sites of the Black Hills. During a recent trip, he stopped to visit with SDPB’s Victoria Wicks about his exploits and what he’s learned over the years.


Kealey Bultena

South Dakota’s education report card shows the state’s high school completion rate dropped slightly this year, but education officials say it’s mostly flat. South Dakota didn’t see a huge increase in the dropout rate, but the state didn’t make any significant improvements in keeping more students on track. Educators around South Dakota try to curb dropout rates by encouraging students to stay in class.

SDSM&T Pauses to Remember President Robert Wharton

Sep 23, 2012

The South Dakota School of Mines is holding a memorial tribute and candlelight vigil  on Monday in remembrance of the school’s president, Dr. Robert Wharton.  Dr. Wharton died unexpectedly early last week.  School of Mines officials say Wharton’s death is related to complications surrounding recent cancer treatment. SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray spent some time on campus speaking with those who knew the president.  He found that Wharton leaves a behind a legacy that is hard to follow.

submitted photo

To observe Constitution and Citizenship Week, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology invited Rapid City lawyer Patrick Duffy to speak to students. Duffy says Americans are woefully uninformed about their own rights, and that ignorance threatens democracy. For today’s Dakota Digest, SDPB’s Victoria Wicks brings us part of that speech and talks with Duffy in his office.


Kealey Bultena

Click the first "Listen" option above to hear the Dakota Digest that airs on SDPB Radio. Select the second "Listen" option to hear complete interview with Doctor Carl Hammerschlag. The conversation includes one of his experiences with legendary physician Patch Adams.

Health care as we understand it is changing. That’s the message a nationally recognized psychiatrist offers hundreds of South Dakota health care professionals. Doctor Carl Hammerschlag explains that he welcomes a new perspective in health care.

Kyle Mork

Summer Camp is a fond memory for many of us in South Dakota.  Nature trails, lakes and bonfires still take us back in time.  But for many with disabilities it’s an experience they cannot relate to--until now. 

Joy Nelson has two passions – 1880’s history and horses
 “I was horse crazy since the time I could talk. …  My parents have the old movies they dressed me up like the little girl I’m supposed to be but I’m dressed up in my cowboy hat and boots and belt on riding my rocking horse with my dress on – it was always there,” says Nelson.

Kealey Bultena

In one week, northwest Iowa hosted two of the men who hope to win November’s presidential election. First, President Barack Obama hosted a rally in Sioux City. On Friday, Governor Mitt Romney made a campaign stop in a nearby college town. Thousands of people found their way to Romney’s event in Orange City.

The crowd leaps up as a band ushers in presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. He strides out on a stage built in the middle of Northwestern College’s gymnasium.