Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Law enforcement in three states want people to know they won’t tolerate drunk driving. Officials in South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota are encouraging people to plan for a safe ride, be the sober driver for others and call authorities if they see dangerous driving. They say they’re collaborating ahead of the Labor Day holiday. Part of their effort to reach people includes a family’s pain.

Officials say, in South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa, 1,215 people have died in drunk driving-related crashes in the last five years. One of those was Brad Bigler’s five-month-old baby.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Area leaders say technology is rapidly changing the way they do business. People from different industries met in Sioux Falls Thursday to discuss technology and South Dakota’s economy. The US Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce worked together for the free event.

Northwest Area Foundation Leader Speaks in Rapid City

23 hours ago
Charles Michael Ray

The president and CEO of the Northwest Area Foundation says the demographic changes underway in this country make him optimistic about the future.   

But Kevin Walker says more needs to be done to create opportunities for poor and marginalized people in this economy if the United States is going to compete globally.

The Northwest Area Foundation is a $400-million dollar philanthropic organization that was started about 80 years ago.  It invests in projects across eight northwestern states and 75 indigenous nations.

South Dakota schools have a waiver from No Child Left Behind but it lasts for just one year, and federal officials have put the state on high risk status.

South Dakota’s first waiver from NCLB lasted for three years. The latest exemption applies for only one year – and it’s happening because of teacher evaluations.

Some people who’ve already owned homes may qualify for a new program that helps people buy houses. The South Dakota Housing Development Authority often helps first-time homebuyers. Now a repeat homebuyer loan program offers assistance with down payments and closing costs.

Financial assistance is now available for people who want to buy a house – again. Mark Lauseng leads the South Dakota Housing Development Authority. He says some people don’t meet the requirements for first-time homebuyers but need options.

Payday Loan Interest Rate Cap Petitions Now Circulating

Aug 26, 2015

There are two petitions in South Dakota that aim to cap the amount of interest that payday lenders can charge. According to one study payday lenders charge average rates of 574 percent  in South Dakota.    But, proponents of a 36 percent cap, call a second interest rate campaign a fake that aims to confuse voters.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

One of South Dakota’s US Senators says Congress is more dysfunctional than he realized. Mike Rounds started his term in January; he spent part of his time back in South Dakota Tuesday talking to members of the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce. Rounds says lawmakers must take pointed steps to make federal systems more efficient. 

United States Senator Mike Rounds has been talking about a broken Washington since he started his campaign for Congress. Less than one year since he took the oath, Rounds says the system is worse than he suspected. He says lawmaking is slow by design.

Chynna Lockett

South Dakota is a state that’s known for rodeos. The annual Range Days Rodeo at the Central States Fair had competitions for riders young to old.

Children between the ages of 3 to 6 joined in the State Championship Mutton Bustin’ competition in which they rode a sheep-bareback-for as long as they could. The finalists performed in front of the crowd at Range Days.  

Chynna Lockett

Many schools are back in session this week in South Dakota. The Rapid City Arts Council and Rapid City Public Library joined a group called Seventh Direction to help students kick off the year with A Block Party.

The event included live music and spray painting activities. Organizers also gave free school supplies to children.

Children spray painted posters and watched as local musicians performed in Rapid City’s College Park on Sunday afternoon. Tyler Read is the Arts Engagement Coordinator for the Rapid City Arts Council.

Local Oncologists Use New Cancer Therapies

Aug 24, 2015

Doctors in South Dakota are using recently-approved drugs to help patients fight cancer. Former President Jimmy Carter’s melanoma diagnosis highlights treatment that includes both radiation and IV immune therapy. Similar treatments may work for cancer patients in South Dakota.

Melanoma is one type of skin cancer. Doctor Marcus Frohm says about 75,000 people will get melanoma this year, and traditional cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation may be necessary.

Two South Dakota women are Congressional Gold Medal recipients for their work during World War Two. The official ceremony in Washington, D.C. in December awarded the medals. Monday afternoon Governor Dennis Daugaard hosts a ceremony honoring the women. 

The Congressional Gold Medal is one of the highest honors for civilians. South Dakotans Lois Schmidt and Pauline Hanson Brehe are recipients.

Civil Air Patrol Major Todd Epp says American leaders are acknowledging their service. He says Brehe and Schmidt were part of the original South Dakota Civil Air Patrol.

Mega Dairy Planned Near Watertown Faces Opposition

Aug 23, 2015

A proposed 49-hundred head dairy near Watertown is facing opposition. There are multiple issues surrounding the proposed Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation. 

The South Dakota Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of a man serving prison time for attempted fetal homicide. Alfredo Vargas was found guilty by a Pennington County jury in late September 2013. The high court has found reversible errors in the trial process. SDPB’s Victoria Wicks covered the trial and reports on this new development.

More than $134,000 is on its way to non-profit organizations across South Dakota. The grant funding targets innovation in communities, and 15 different groups are receiving funding this round. This is the second of three waves of grant funding in 2015.

Earlier this year, the South Dakota Community Foundation and the Bush Foundation based in St. Paul Minnesota awarded about $130,000 to area non-profits. Now just as much is headed toward local groups through the second round of grants.

The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

Hardrockers and Black Hills State University Yellow Jackets have a rivalry that dates back 130 years. This is the longest standing rivalry in N-C-A-A Division two college football.

ESPN3 will broadcast the competition for the Homestake Trophy this year and receive national attention.

The Hardrockers verses the Yellow Jackets game has been named The Black Hills Brawl – The Battle for the Homestake Trophy. It is the kickoff game for the N-C-A-A Division two Game-of-the-Week Series.

Victoria Wicks

Ground was broken Thursday for the First Nations Sculpture Garden planned for Halley Park in Rapid City. In the works for almost two years, the garden will hold busts of four 20th Century Plains Indian leaders and have space for four more. SDPB’s Victoria Wicks has followed the sculpture garden’s progress.

Chynna Lockett

An alumni from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music is scheduled to perform a concert in Rapid City. The one night event will feature the musician performing three arrangements by Bach on his viola.

Samuel Nelson performs a selection from Bach’s sixth cello suite. He chose to play compositions that were written for other instruments on his viola.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Two people face felony human trafficking charges after Sioux Falls police met with two victims. Officials arrested one man and one woman accused of sex trafficking, and they took two more people into custody for drug charges.

The human trafficking investigation started Monday when officers found an ad online related to prostitution. They arranged a meeting with two women.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Members of a state task force are setting priorities to address elder abuse in South Dakota. The group met Tuesday in Sioux Falls. Task force members are trying to figure out how to prevent and punish abuse of aging populations.

The Elder Abuse Task Force is investigating the scope of elder abuse in South Dakota, and members may offer reports and policy suggestions based on what they find.

USDA Grant Helps Low Income People Make Housing Repairs

Aug 18, 2015

Worn houses with boarded windows are a common site when driving through parts of rural South Dakota. The United States Department of Agriculture, or USDA, has announced a program to help change this.

The new USDA effort helps qualifying low income homeowners pay for necessary housing repairs.   
This program is affecting some in Indian Country.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s, or USDA’s, new program provides grants and loans for some low income homeowners. These funds are used to make repairs that help people stay in their home for as long as they can.

Lacrosse, Attracting Kids Looking For A New Sport

Aug 18, 2015
Erin Mairose

Lacrosse is one of the fastest growing sports in the US and now the trend is starting in Sioux Falls. The group Sioux Falls Lacrosse has over 150 kids playing the sport since starting a year ago. 

Wearing helmets and cradling sticks, players dart across a field trying to score the ball into a goalie. Opposite to the field a group of seven-year- olds attend their first clinic to learn the basics of Lacrosse.

George Gongopoulos brought his son Elliot to the clinic. He says the Lacrosse sounded like fun sport for his son to try out as a beginner. 

Central States Fair Opens For Business

Aug 17, 2015
Chynna Lockett

  This Central States Fair is in full swing this week in Rapid City. This year marks the fair's 70th anniversary with the theme 70 years of Food on a Stick.

The opening of the Central States Fair was marked by a ribbon cutting on Friday. Ron Jefferies is the General Manager. He says there’s a variety of food offered. Jefferies adds the fair features activities for all ages that showcases the fair's history.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

An area health system is donating $75,000 to support a truck that takes food to hungry people across the state. Avera is putting $25,000 into Feeding South Dakota’s mobile food pantry each year for the next three. The donation supports communities in the central part of the state.

Feeding South Dakota’s mobile food truck has refrigerated sections. That means foods that need to stay cool – think dairy products, produce, and meats – can make it across the state for distribution to hungry families.

Parents are expected to pay more this year in school supplies and activities fees. The Backpack Index released by Huntington Bank averages families will spend more than $1,000 dollars preparing two students for school. 

The Banquet in Sioux Falls serves free meals each day. But throughout the year volunteers collect and sort school supplies in the store room behind the kitchen.  Next week more than 6,000 kids will pick out a backpack complete with everything on their school supply list.

Lakota Student Attends Princeton Program

Aug 17, 2015
Courtesy Morgan Mesteth

A Lakota student from the Pine Ridge Reservation has just returned from a select summer program at Princeton University. The rising senior learned about a lot more than just preparing applications for college. 

Morgan Mesteth was one of 100 students…and only 2 Native Americans…to be chosen to take part in the Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America program at Princeton.  

Efforts Underway To Ban Alcohol And Tobacco In SD

Aug 14, 2015

A group is now working to  make booze and tobacco illegal in South Dakota.
Two separate petitions are circulating to add the criminalization of alcohol and tobacco to the 2016 ballot.  Another petition would ask voters to decriminalize marijuana.

Photo by Srey Austin

Ceremonies are scheduled this weekend at the Black Hills National Cemetery outside Sturgis and the National Cemetery in Hot Springs.  The gatherings are part of a nationwide commemorative event recognizing veterans of World War Two and their sacrifices.


The “Keep the Spirit of ’45 World War II 70th Anniversary Weekend” is a grass roots effort taking place in small towns and big cities from coast-to-coast. Events start on August 14…the day Japan surrendered to the U.S.…and continue through Sunday.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Assistant Police Chief Matt Burns is the mayor’s choice for the next leader of the Sioux Falls Police Department. Current chief Doug Barthel is leaving the force after more than 12 years in command. The newly-announced chief already has priorities for his tenure.

Matt Burns has spent almost 19 years with Sioux Falls Police. He became assistant chief in March. Now Mayor Mike Huether says Burns is his pick to lead the department.

Weekly Drum Group Meets In Pennington County Jail

Aug 13, 2015
Pennington County Sheriff's Office

The Pennington County Jail recently reinstated their spiritual drum group. The program was originally developed in the 1990s. It allows inmates to stay connected to their culture by meeting weekly to play traditional music.

A group of inmates gathered in chairs surrounding a drum. They went around the circle and each said a prayer before they began to play their music.

The drum group meets once a week for an hour. They teach each other techniques and practice traditional Native American songs. Wayne Featherman is one of the musicians. He said the group is healing.

Ability For Hire / SD Department of Human Services

A state agency is launching a campaign aimed at connecting people with disabilities to employers. It’s called Ability for Hire, and leaders say it can benefit both workers and businesses.

Department of Human Services Secretary Gloria Pearson says the new Ability for Hire campaign is part of ongoing work to support South Dakotans with disabilities.

Pearson says people with disabilities are an untapped resource for businesses looking to hire quality employees – especially in an environment with low unemployment.