The first constitutional convention held | SD History
This week in 1883, the first constitutional convention was held for the purpose of splitting Dakota Territory and establishing a state from the southern half. A group supporting statehood for a “South Dakota" met in Sioux Falls and drafted a state constitution. However, they had no federal authorization to do so.
The effort to create a new state was the next step in a timeline of stewardship in this area of the northern plains. The Sioux Nation had assumed dominance in the early 1700’s over the Arikara, Mandan, and Omaha tribes. The first record of Europeans in the area dates to 1743. The Verendrye brothers were the buried a lead plate near present-day Fort Pierre with an inscription claiming the land for France.
The United State claimed ownership of the northern plains in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. In 1861, the Organic Act created Dakota Territory. And in 1889, Dakota Territory was split into the states of North Dakota and South Dakota.
The unauthorized constitution convention held in Sioux Falls this week in 1883 was part of the progression. It was the first time the people of Dakota Territory petitioned Congress for admission to the Union.
A second convention was held two years later in 1885. That meeting was authorized and helped draft a more formalized state constitution. This early version of a South Dakota Constitution included provisions that prohibited divorces, lotteries, and games of chance.
A third constitutional convention was held early in 1889 and led to the final constitutional provisions that were adopted at statehood in November 1889.
But it was this week in 1883, the first “unofficial” constitutional convention was held for the future state South Dakota.
Production help is provided by Brad Tennant, Dakota Wesleyan University