In 1932, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) visited South Dakota and observed the damage caused by erosion and silt on navigation and agriculture. As a result, he committed to the development of the Missouri River. In 1933 the president approved the construction of the Fork Peck Dam, bringing Depression-era employment and training to tens of thousands of people. The number of on-site workers averaged 7,000 per year, reaching a peak of 10,546 in 1936. Other dams included the Oahe Dam, constructed between 1948 and 1962; the Big Bend Dam, built between 1959 and 1963; the Gavins Dam, completed in 1957; and the Fort Randall Dam, which required the construction of a new town to house the people who would build and maintain it. The town of Pickstown would house 3,500 workers, and at the height of its construction, almost 5,000 people worked on the dam, which was completed in 1954, bringing many Latino workers to the state. When the dams were completed, most of the Latino workers returned home. Some, however, remained behind, intermarrying with indigenous women. Most of these dams are on or near Native American reservations. As a result, many Spanish surnames are found on reservations in South Dakota.5
Latino culture is not particularly prevalent on reservations in South Dakota, nor is it being propagated. The Spanish language is still present among a few people; however, native South Dakotans have not adopted much from Latino culture. There are Mayas, Aztecs, and other Mexican and Central American natives living on the reservations, but they are not recognized by the majority of the native communities. Most of the Latinos on the reservations have adopted native culture; since the indigenous communities of South Dakota are matriarchal, it is the culture of the mother that prevails. If a Latino man marries an indigenous woman, she is the head of the household, and her influence will be dominant when it comes to the cultural and linguistic identity of the children.
In 1970, when the population of South Dakota was 665,507, the state was home to 2,954 persons of Spanish language, of which 1,488 spoke Spanish as their mother tongue. By 1980, when the population of South Dakota was 690,768, there were 3,815 Spanish Americans in the state slightly more than the 2,152 black Americans. In 1990, there were 5,006 Latinos in South Dakota. By the year 2000, there were 10,903 Latinos. By 2005 the Latino population of South Dakota reached 15,518, or 2 percent of the state’s population. Of these it is estimated that 50 percent are Mexicans, 20 percent are Guatemalans, 10 percent are Salvadorans, and the remaining 20 percent are from other Spanish American nations. As of 2006, the number of Mexicans in South Dakota has grown sufficiently large to warrant the visit of a mobile Mexican consulate.
The majority of Latinos in South Dakota live in Sioux Falls. Prior to 1980, the city was almost exclusively white.6 Between 1980 and 1990, however, the minor-
ity population of Sioux Falls tripled, mainly the result of work opportunities at John Morrell and Co., a pork slaughter and processing plant. According to the 2000 census, the city counted some 3,087 Latinos out of a population of 123,975 (namely, 2.5 percent of the population). By 2005 the Latino population had reached 5,136 out of 132,358. Minorities now represent 6 percent of Sioux Fall residents and 10 percent of schoolchildren.
The second-largest Latino center in the state is Rapid City, which had 1,650 Latinos in the year 2000, representing 2.7 percent of the population. In Huron there are approximately 1,000 Latinos out of a population of 13,000 people, a significant increase since the 2000 census, which counted a mere 143 Latinos out of a population of 11,893 (namely, less than 1.2 percent of the population). As of 2006, Latinos students represented 7 percent of students in Huron schools, with 100 Latino children in English Lanugage Learner (ELL) classes. In Aberdeen, Latinos are 0.8 percent of the population. In Brookings, a population of 18,504 includes 139 Latinos, namely 0.75 percent of the population. In Pierre, the capital city, Latinos represent 1.2 percent of the population. While the number of Latinos on South Dakotan military bases is numerically small 130 Latinos and 34 Latinas they represent 4.6 and 6.3 percent of personnel, which is significantly higher than the state average.
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