Happy omnibus birthday, South Dakota!

Happy omnibus birthday, South Dakota!
Happy birthday to South Dakota!

Actually it didn't occur until November 2, 1889, but an Omnibus Bill was signed by President Grover Cleveland on February 22 admitting South Dakota to the federal union along with North Dakota, Montana andWashington.

It's another reason to celebrate the month besides Valentine's Day!


Incidentally, President Cleveland affixed his signature to the measure using a quill pen made from the feather of an eagle killed in Dakota Territory.

It took three constitutional conventions to accomplish the statehood drive. The first one was in the Germania Hall in Sioux Falls in 1883 when 125 delegates met to draft a constitution for the yet unborn state of southern Dakota. Their average age was 35, and they included 42 lawyers, 31 farmers, 13 newspapermen, 11 land agents and 28 from other professions and occupations.

(They were all men and, believe me, women's right to vote got the short shrift).

The delegates wrote a constitution all right and submitted it to the people who approved it 12,336 to 6,814. However, at least 30,000 citizens failed to cast ballots, and six counties didn't even send in returns. For that � and other reasons � Congress rejected it.

First of all, they couldn't agree on the shape of the state itself. Some wanted a single state to include both northern and southern Dakota with Bismarck as the capital. Apparently others wanted an east-west split, with the western section called the Territory ofLincoln. Still others opted for a single state, much like South Dakota is now.

A second constitutional convention was held two years later � again in the Germania Hall in Sioux Falls � reaffirming the work of the first one with a few changes. Again it was approved by the people of the affected area, and again Congress turned it down. Politics raised its ugly head as a Republican Senate passed the measure and the Democrat-controlled House voted against it.

When GOP members took over both houses of Congress, the long, drawn-out struggle came to a hasty end. The Omnibus Bill signed by outgoing President Cleveland (a Democrat) made it possible for President Benjamin Harrison to sign the statehood statute in November. It seems four states were more "politically correct" than one or two.

A third constitutional convention was called. The one-staters changed their tune, and once more the people approved the document. A total of 200,000 copies of the measure were circulated, 20,000 in German, 20,000 in Norwegian and 10,000 in Russian, which gives you some idea of the makeup of the resultant state.

That's an abbreviated lesson on how South Dakota came about. Granted, there were other elements involved � including women's suffrage, prohibition, railroad enmity and political shenanigans � but we wouldn't confuse you with facts, now would we.

At least, it makes February more palatable!

� 2006 Robert F. Karolevitz

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